By Lisa Wright, RN, BSN, OCN, Nurse Navigator at ThedaCare Cancer Care
I enjoy a good bus ride, specifically if I’m in unfamiliar territory. I step on, sit down, and trust the driver’s experience and wisdom to get me to the next stop. In difficult times of my life when I am scared or confused about the next leg of my journey, I even meditate on who is my “driver.” Sometimes it’s a really good friend, a higher being, or a trusted expert. I never lose my agency to get off the bus or change my route, but I appreciate knowing I have a knowledgeable companion along for the ride.
I am a registered nurse cancer navigator, which means I am a companion to people who are experiencing cancer. I coordinate care among multiple care teams, help our patients understand their treatment plans, and direct them to supportive resources in the community. More than anything, I know each of my people and I am present to them during one of the most vulnerable times of their lives.
Cancer is the ultimate unfamiliar territory, and as survivors, I know you can recall the day you got your diagnosis. Some people say it’s as if everything else fell away, and that word — cancer — was all they heard and felt. Ironically, it’s at that moment when an entire team of people are stepping to your side to hold you up and guide your first steps. Navigators do this, but so do health care providers, friends, family, other cancer patients, survivors, co-workers, and even strangers.
I will always remember a woman who was visiting the Fox Valley with her partner when they had some difficulties that prevented their return to their home state. Unfortunately, during their extended stay, she was diagnosed with cancer and sought care at ThedaCare. She was treated for her cancer and, through our navigation process, simultaneously accessed care for another chronic health problem. In the end, she not only recovered from cancer, she learned to thrive in new and healthy ways. She later contacted me and expressed her sincere gratitude. I like to think we made her feel safe — and seen. People respond differently when they know they are not alone.
I see you, and I join you in your celebration of surviving cancer. I think you are amazing.
You Are a Cancer Survivor
Companionship is Part of Your Toolbox
- Making connections will help you:
- Do the next right thing, one step at a time
- Learn to go with the flow and not look too far ahead
- Get to know people in the same boat (or on the same bus?!)
- Understand the roles of your care team members and their areas of expertise
- Pass time with less anxiety
- Strengthen your mental, emotional, and spiritual health
- Remove barriers to care, like access to childcare, transportation, or financial support
- Celebrate your victories
The Bell That Rings Us Together
You may have heard a tone broadcast throughout the cancer center. This tells us someone is about to ring the big 650-pound bell in our courtyard. People ring the bell when they reach a happy milestone in their treatment, like getting good test results or finishing radiation or chemotherapy. Anyone who is available can join the bell ringing. Some of the happiest moments of my job are when I have a few minutes to walk downstairs and share in the celebration. It fills my well and reminds me that together is one of the best places to be.
ThedaCare’s team of cancer experts is here to ensure you feel supported, informed and cared for every step of the way.