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Published on October 18, 2013

Nurse Navigator a Powerful Partner for Cancer Patients

Casting for Recovery

Patty Crumrine, a breast cancer survivor, at "Casting for Recovery."

A diagnosis of breast cancer is life shattering. What follows is a confusing and frightening battle through a labyrinth of doctors, treatments, breast surgeries and rehabilitation. In the end, for a survivor, she may feel her identity has been taken.

“But I had a nurse navigator with me,” says Patty Crumrine, a breast cancer survivor. She points to Melanie Dines, RN, her nurse navigator at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford, Oregon. “She made all the difference.”

Nurse navigators are with a woman from the moment a mammogram or breast exam creates suspicion of cancer. She guides the patient through every choice from diagnosis to treatment and recovery while providing emotional support . In Patty’s case, she was even there for a fly fishing tip, “Casting for Recovery.”

Melanie and Patty met the day her mammogram showed spots that might be cancerous. Sitting on the couch in Melanie’s comfortable office, she explained to Patty what may lie ahead, and then let Patty ask questions.

“She knew how to listen,” Patty comments. “She has the education and experience to give you the right direction, and she knows what to do. She knows how to handle us cancer patients.”

Melanie was there with Patty the day of her biopsy, and was with her when she got the devastating diagnosis. The tumors were large and the cancer was spreading fast. She would need a mastectomy.

Patty was facing losing a part of identity. “Breasts are part of us, and the thought of even a lumpectomy is traumatic,” Melanie explains. “It takes time and strength to feel like yourself again.”

On the day of the surgery, she held Patty’s hand as they walked the 100 yards from her office to the hospital.

The surgery removed the cancer, but Patty had complications and had to go back to the operating room. Hours later, she was in intensive care on a ventilator. “I woke up and I didn’t know what had happened,” Patty recalls. “I was scared. But the first thing I saw was Melanie, right there by my bed, and I thought, ‘I guess I am going to live.’ She is an angel.”

Melanie is flattered, but balks at calling herself an angel. She is just glad that Asante supports nurse navigators. “For the past 10 years more and more hospitals are providing their patients with navigators,” she says. “We are important for the overall patient experience, and I am honored to be a part of their lives.”

Patty developed a rare condition, post surgical pain syndrome. She has had multiple surgeries and treatments, and four years later, she is finally feeling better. “I did everything suggested, every therapy, I stopped at nothing,” Patty says. “And Melanie was with me the whole time. She has helped me learn that if you don’t laugh about some of this stuff you will spend your life crying.”

As part of her therapy, Melanie joined Patty for “Casting for Recovery,” a program where women recovering from breast cancer come together for a weekend retreat of guided fly fishing and community where women emotionally recover what they have physically lost; to regain their identity as a woman.

“They loved us to pieces,” Patty says. “And it was great to have Melanie there.

Reviewed by Philip Stanley on October 18, 2013

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