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Navigating Cancer: December 18, 2011

Bruce Waters felt like anyone one of us would after learning he had cancer.

“I went home and there was so many mixed feelings, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know, I don’t know any doctors, you know. I don’t know financial situations.  I know my job and that’s what I know so . . .”

A stunned Bruce was referred to Laurie Wise, RN. She’s a cancer navigator with Lee Memorial Health System.

“When I met him he was in this limbo really and what we were able to do for him is find a doctor who was able to get him the necessary testing, the bone scan and the pet scan, at a reduced rate that he was able to afford, so that he could get staged and have his treatment progress,” says Laurie Wise, a cancer navigator with Lee Memorial Health System.

Cancer navigators do exactly what their title suggests. They guide people who are newly diagnosed with any number of cancers. In Bruce’s case it was prostate. They also assist with breast, lung, brain and gastrointestinal disease.

“Really talk to them about what their fears are get a better idea of their understanding of what’s going on with them and being able to move from there and do whatever we need to do to get that patient to treatment,” says Laurie.

Studies show cancer navigators can save lives by shortening the time between a patient getting an abnormal screening and starting treatment, by coordinating with doctors and helping with financial needs.

“We know that people who don’t have insurance or access to physicians do not do as well as those who do. So it’s really an exciting position to be able to participate in getting people the kind of help they need,” says Laurie.

Laurie was successful getting Bruce into treatment with his limited finances. He’s equally grateful for her compassion.

“Every couple of weeks she gives me a call, “Hi Bruce how are you doing?’ I was just doing good;  oh, I call her if I don’t hear from her in two weeks I call her, ‘oh you’re still good’ ‘yeah I’m doing great’,” says Bruce.

It makes a world of difference, adding a human connection to the chain of healing.