Susie Brain, Breast Cancer Survivor
I have been a PAMF patient since 1980 and have always been happy with the care I received. So when I received my breast cancer diagnosis in 2004, I decided to stay with PAMF for treatment. It has a more "homey" feel than some of the larger or more academic settings. Practically speaking, it also seemed like an easier place to receive treatment with the free and easy parking, since I knew I'd be coming in for chemotherapy followed by a regimen of daily radiation treatments.
It is amazing how even these seemingly small things such as ease of access and parking become even more important when you are a cancer patient. The quality of physician care patients receive is wonderful. Dr. Kushlan is my oncologist, and she has been fabulous, as has my radiation oncologist, Dr. Ray. Everyone here goes above and beyond for his or her patients.
I was invited to join PAMF's Patient-Focused Cancer Care Committee in 2007 by Kingsley Jack, who is also a breast cancer survivor and one of the first patients on the committee. From the beginning, I found this to be a very welcoming group and a visionary experience. I'd been doing a lot of advocacy work for breast cancer survivors in the local community and this was a natural extension of this activity.
As part of this committee, I want to make myself available to patients and formalize my role into a patient navigator and continue with patient advocacy. I've already begun to do this informally and have accompanied patients to appointments -- just to provide support and an extra set of ears.
I feel my role is to help and empower people. I am active as a survivor. Although I am saddened when I see young mothers and women with breast cancer, thankfully, I know treatment is so much better today. As a result, patients are surviving longer. However, they still need to deal with issues that occur once active treatment is over, and that is why our committee focuses on survivorship.
The cancer care committee is important because if people don't have access to supportive family and friends, PAMF's survivorship program can help. In addition to helping patients, we must not forget that caregivers are survivors, too, and we can also provide resources for them. It's exhausting for caregivers, but they keep going, and they need time for some caring for themselves.
This full spectrum of patient cancer care support should continue after the end of treatment. Often, patients complete treatment and wonder: "Well, what now?" That's where the committee can help again. There are questions about nutrition, exercise, body image, stress reduction and insurance, and having a plan is so important. Because I have been through cancer treatment myself, I can remind them to be patient with their bodies and the process.
With our patient-focused committee and survivorship program, patients know people will listen to them and care about them. That's what people really need throughout this process -- to know someone cares.
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Susie Brain, breast cancer survivor and member of PAMF's Patient-Focused Cancer Care Committee