Cumberland Times-News

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October 13, 2013

Patient navigators guide people with cancer through treatment

National organization provides free service

CUMBERLAND — For any cancer patient, whether it be breast cancer or lung cancer, the minutes, hours and days following a diagnosis can be a blur as one considers treatment options. The American Cancer Society offers a service that can help make the journey far less difficult.

The Patient Navigator Program is a free service that guides patients through every phase of their treatment, providing both the patients and their care-givers with valuable information and support.

Tenna Taylor serves as the ACS patient navigator for this region. Her office is located at the Schwab Family Cancer Center on the Western Maryland Regional Health System campus. However, her services are available to any patient regardless of where she is being treated.

Taylor said she is available to offer her services immediately following a diagnosis of cancer.

“I have lots of good educational materials to help pa-tients and care-givers prepare for the journey ahead of them. I also will be happy to assist with any needs or questions they may have surrounding their diagnosis and will be happy to be a constant resource for them during their whole journey,” she said. “A cancer diagnosis is a very scary experience and to have someone in your community you can go to or call who can help you to begin the process of treatment and then can be there for you during and after treatment to assist with additional needs that arise makes the cancer experience a little less stressful.”

Taylor will meet with patients individually and also with their families and care-givers. All meetings and information shared are kept in the strictest confidence.

“A lot of times people have questions about general things like financial issues, transportation issues and when they are with their medical staff they are focused on their care and listening to the medical staff to make sure they are doing everything the doctors and nurses tell them to so they can get well.  Then often times it's that you spend so much time with people that you build a friendship with patients because you are talking with them and helping them at such a vulnerable time in their lives that they end up sharing with you feelings and emotions.  Sometimes those emotions and feelings are easier said to someone who is not their family member or care-giver,” Taylor said.

After working with the ACS on various projects, including Relay for Life and several support programs, Taylor developed a real passion for the work being done by the organization. When the Patient Navigator position became available, Taylor realized this transition would allow her to have a greater impact on cancer patients.

“During this time my mom, who is a longtime uterine cancer survivor, was also diagnosed with melanoma, thankfully in the very early stage and did well. Since I do not live close to my mom, I always think when I am with a patient that this could have been my mom and how would I have wanted her to be helped.  The patient-focused mentality of the American Cancer Society and WMHS made it possible for me to assist patients in the exact way I would have wanted my mom to be treated and that is very rewarding,” Taylor said.

Her work with the ACS has changed Taylor’s outlook on life, both personally and professionally. “Those small everyday trials that come up that used to be huge for me and stress me out don’t seem so stressful and important any more because I see patients every day dealing with issues that I don’t know myself if I would have the strength to handle. The word courage has taken on a whole new meaning for me.”

Patients or care-givers can contact Taylor at 240-964-1449 or via email at Tenna.Taylor@cancer.org.

Contact Angie Brant at abrant@times-news.com.

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