Cancer navigators take the stress out of organizing treatment

Published On: Oct 19 2012 11:52:00 AM HST

Getting a cancer diagnosis and going through treatment can be an overwhelming and stressful process, especially if you don't have a strong support group.

But a group of women are helping to advocate for those battling cancer here in Hawaii.

Four woman: Rae, Jocelyn, Debbie and Janet, are cancer patient navigators at the Queen's Medical Center.

"I consider us to be the GPS of cancer care ," said Jocelyn Nishioka, a cancer patient navigator coordinator. "We basically guide our patients through different treatments, but the different services available to them."

Everyone who walks through the cancer center doors has the option of having a navigator.

The caretakers coordinate the patients, doctors, visits and exams, help with insurance coverage, mediate with oncologists and provide support service like translation.

Before the cancer patient navigator program started at Queen's in 2006, patients were forced to deal with the financial, medical and social challenges of battling cancer on their own.

"When you do get diagnosed with cancer, there's many things to think about," added Nishioka.  "I think having a guidance of a patient navigator, having a friendly voice to kind of guide you along the way."

The advocates help 900 cancer patients a year, for free.

Navigators also make sure patients have transportation to and from their appointments, especially if they have to fly to Oahu for specialty care.

One third of the patients the navigators help are from the neighbor islands.

Some of the patients are at Queen's every day for treatment, and those navigators line up everything from lodging to transportation to make the process seemless.

"When they come in they are all anxious, or they are all worried," explained Janet Yoshikawa, a cancer patient navigator. "So what I kind of do is relax and when they relax they open up."

"We see a lot of patients who are homeless or who don't have family here  and they are on the mainland," said Nishioka. "So we provide the support that some of other patients are lucky to have."

This close knit group says in the end it's the patients' strength in the face of their illness that keeps them going every day.

"It really touches my heart. For me having that appreciation from that patient when they come up to you that oh "Jocelyn wit out you I probably would not have made it this far through my treatment it brings joy to my heart to be apart of that patients journey,'" Nishioka concluded. 


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