Becoming navigators for others on their cancer journey

Breast Cancer Navigators share story of hope
Posted at 3:30 AM, Oct 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-21 13:22:03-04

Evelyn and Jeannine are on opposite ends of the cancer journey, but both have a common goal to make sure the navigation goes as easy as possible.

"Everyone is different, so you have to take at that point in time and move forward," Evelyn Goodrow, breast navigator at Lourdes Breast Center, said.

Both are cancer navigators.

Evelyn is with someone at the time of diagnosis.

"Sometimes it's answering very basic questions and then the next day answering them again," Evelyn said. "That's ok. Everyone always leaves with my name and phone number, and I tell them to call me because that's what I'm here for and then I make that next introduction to the navigator at the hospital."

"I see them when it's treatment time," Jeannine LaFrance, oncology Nurse Practitioner at Our Lady of Lourdes JD Moncus Cancer Center, said. "They are very afraid. How will this make me feel and what are the treatments like? I try to prepare them for this journey as much as possible on how to manage their symptoms, when to call their physician, and to tell them know they're never alone. We are just a phone call away and we're always here for them. I try my best to help them with the mental part of it and accept the diagnosis. Their life has changed."

Evelyn said this is not the career path that she originally chose, it sort of fell into her lap one day when she was looking for a change.

"It's really kind of funny, I answered a blind ad in 1991," Evelyn said. "My prior life had been critical care and emergency medicine and I was tired of working 12 hour shifts so I answered the blind ad. I didn't know what I was going for and it ended up being a free-standing radiation facility that I remained at for 22 years. That was my introduction into oncology."

Jeannine said it felt like a calling.

"Lourdes had a program called 'Going Places" where you could pick three areas," Jeannine explained. "I picked oncology, surgery, and ICU. I went to oncology first and spent two weeks, then surgery for two weeks, and never made it to ICU because I knew oncology is where I wanted to be. There is no special reason, it was just a feel, the nurses, patients, there was just something special about it."

Both women agree that this career is not an easy one, but it is rewarding when they are able to see the look of relief on the faces of those they are helping to navigate.

"For some reason as women we think we're supposed know everything and handle everything," Evelyn said." Even though we're taking care of a family and working full-time and all of that....we're supposed to do everything, and we can't, that's impossible. Women need to know that. They need to know that you're going to need some help, rely on your family and friends to get through this process, and sometimes you need to know that. It's important for them to be empowered with knowledge because that is the only way that they'll be able to make it through this."

While no one wants to go on this journey, those who must know that they have a helping hand along the way both women offer something we all need from time to time.

"It's a little bit of hope when they think there is not hope at all," Jeannine said. "At Lourdes and what we do is never take away hope."

Armed with hope and knowledge, this power duo said they are ready to tackle cancer head-on to make the journey as easy as it can be for those on it.