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Cancer Navigators: August 08, 2011

Fifty-eight year old Bruce Waters knew something wasn’t right. He went to the doctors for testing and learned he had advanced prostate cancer.

“You’re confused, you think ‘oh I can’t, I feel great, I don’t have cancer, I feel too good to have cancer’ and being bull headed I just kind of wanted to ignore it. But I couldn’t.”

Getting a cancer diagnosis tends to stop people in their tracks. With so many uncertainties ahead of them, they need help navigating the system.

Nurse Laurie Wise has made it her business to guide cancer patients. She’s part of a team of navigators at Lee Memorial Health System’s Regional Cancer Center.

“We get a call to help them find treatment, find a physician, find someone who will take care of them, help them with Medicaid applications if they don’t have insurance.”

The service doesn’t cost a thing, but was priceless to Bruce. While he was digesting news of his disease, he struggled to find a way to pay for it.

“Personally, I had no financing; they pulled out four or five different applications and knowing different doctors, who to talk to who that’s how it started,” says Waters.

“When I met him he was in this limbo 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 Wise.

Navigators are divided into specialties covering a variety of cancers. Each one gets focused training in their specialty. Their job is part coordinator, part counselor.

“It really is a gift to be able to sit with him and just talk to him about his fears, help in any small way that we can to help him get through this so that he’s not stuck in this place of inactivity and inertia,” says Wise. 

With a support system behind him, Bruce is now pushing forward.

“Took all my worry, right off my shoulders. Now I can get on with my life and concentrate on you know having care and getting, taking treatments.”