I wish u knew… There is help to get you through cancer treatment


Tim.Hampshire
Tim Hampshire

OK, so you’re a cancer patient who just got done with your IMRT treatment for the day, but now you have to head to a different pavilion for a consultation with your physician, then at 3:00 you have another scan, and the physical therapist is late, but you have to see her as well, and you’re pretty hungry but you don’t know where the cafeteria is, and you can’t really walk so well since the surgery so you need somebody to wheel you over to your consultation, and these copayments are getting pretty steep, and you just feel pretty confused and frustrated in general.

“God,” you’re probably thinking, “Everything about this basically sucks. Isn’t there somebody who can streamline this and make it a little easier?”

Actually, yeah. Her name is Trish Gambino. She has a team of trained nurses who marshal resources for you and make it a priority to get you from place to place so your treatment goes well. They call themselves the Nurse Navigators, and they wear flowing white capes.

Actually, no capes. But the Nurse Navigators still cut heroic figures; in a horribly disorganized world of advanced healthcare, where everything seems to be done the wrong way for the right reasons, they are oases of common sense. They, you know, schedule stuff. Tell you where to go. Remind you what you’re doing there (it’s easy to forget.)

“The whole idea of navigation arose when we realized as the treatments got more complex, the infrastructure of the institution didn’t really meet the needs of the patient,” she told me.

They don’t mean to do it, but your physicians, nurses, technicians, specialists, and all caretakers on your team sometimes make a plan for your treatment, and then fail to really educate you about what it is. You can feel like a lab rat lost in a maze. It could be over scheduling, it could be a lack of communication, but the point is you’re disoriented and it would be nice to have somebody sit down and just tell you what’s going on.

And that’s what Trish does. She saves people from oppressive confusion. There you have it. It’s actually quite heartening to know that people like that exist.