Living with cancer blog

Get help navigating your cancer journey

By Sheryl M. Ness, R.N. January 13, 2010

"Having cancer is hard. Finding help shouldn't be."

I love the motto of the American Cancer Society (ACS). It shows the ACS commitment to guide cancer survivors, their caregivers and families to get the help they need during their cancer journey.

Its Patient Navigation Program is available in hospitals and treatment centers across the nation, including at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and Mayo Clinic, Arizona. Mayo Clinic, Florida, also has ACS-trained volunteers that offer similar navigation services.

Navigators can help:

  • Newly diagnosed cancer patients find resources for wigs and other cosmetic needs if needed
  • Parents of a child with cancer connect with others facing similar issues
  • Patients and their caregivers access Mayo-specific resources, such as chaplaincy, nutrition or hospice services

They're there to lean on when information overload is threatening, or if you want more specifics, they can help you find them. Navigators can help you think through the questions you want to ask your doctor, and they know how to connect you to community resources — from support groups, to transportation, lodging and financial resources.

I've had the pleasure of witnessing navigators in action, helping patients at Mayo Clinic's Stephen and Barbara Slaggie Family Cancer Education Center in Rochester. Patients who visit the Center seem to leave just a little bit lighter, knowing that Mayo and ACS are dedicated to making their journey a little bit easier.

An Arizona patient shared the following feedback: "Your title, 'Patient Navigator' doesn't do justice to the job you actually do. We left your office with a much lighter load than when we came in. Your manner and actions show that you truly care about the patients that you help."

Called "angels" by some and "life-savers" by others, navigators positively affect the lives of those touched by cancer every day. I encourage you to seek one out the next time you have questions. To locate an ACS patient navigator in your community, call 1-800-227-2345 or visit the American Cancer Society's Web site.

To connect with Mayo Clinic navigators, call 507-266-9288 in Rochester; 480-301-5990 in Arizona; and 904-953-7290 in Florida.

What about you? Have you connected with an ACS patient navigator? If so, please feel free to share your story with others.

With

Sheryl M. Ness, R.N.

Follow on Twitter: @SherylNess1

Join the discussion at #livingwithcancer.

Jan. 13, 2010