Navigating Breast Cancer


A breast cancer diagnosis is often the climax to an agonizing set of days that started when a doctor found a lump.  Though the wait for the diagnosis may be over, the patient’s new reality can be overwhelmingly uncertain.

Aside from the body image worries a woman may have, she likely is wondering who will step in to juggle all of the responsibilities she typically does.  How will she pay for treatment?  If she has young children or grandchildren, who will watch them?  If she cares for an older relative, who will take her place? If she lives out of town, how will she get to treatment and will this new gas expense be a financial burden?  What about her job?

There are so many logistics and we haven’t even broached the myriad of treatment options.  A woman can easily feel like she’s standing at the foot of gigantic mountain, unsure how to climb.

That’s where Teri Sabo comes in.

A nurse for 27 years, 17 of which were spent helping cancer patients, Sabo is St. Joseph’s new Oncology Nurse Navigator.  She is the ski lift to help women climb the mountain.

Sabo likes to refer to herself as a concierge service, but another way to describe her might be a caring and informed girlfriend whom breast cancer patients can count on to help them through this bewildering time of information and emotions.

“There are walls that go up when you hear ‘You have cancer’,” said Sabo.”  “Someone may be in such a state of shock that she can’t remember all the information and everything the doctor said.  We can go over what the doctor told them and I can educate the patient and her family as well as prompt questions she might want to ask her doctor.”

With a primary doctor’s and patient’s permission, Sabo guides a patient through the diagnosis, treatment and recovery process and among the many specialists appointments the patient is likely to encounter.

“We have so many services in one building, I try to walk them through the process and anticipate and help avoid any obstacles to their care,” said Sabo.  “Do they have insurance, do they understand how it works?  I want to help them get the most bang for their buck from their insurance.” Located in the first office in the lobby of the cancer center, Sabo is easily accessible – in person, on the phone or by e-mail.  She hopes to take some of the stress and effort off the patient.

“A lot of times patients don’t have time to research their disease, it’s just easier to talk to someone who has the information or has done the research for them,” said Sabo. “I also make sure that if their doctor wants them to see a particular surgeon and there are scheduling issues, I make sure the patient gets in, so the patient doesn’t have to deal with that.  That’s what I’m here for,” said Sabo. This navigator doesn’t just focus on the medical aspect of breast cancer. “I have time to find creative solutions to their problems,” said Sabo.  “If they chose radiation, that means they are coming here daily.  If a patient is driving in a long distance, I can try to get them a gas card from the American Cancer Society.  I try to get them plugged in with the appropriate resources.” With so many services to cancer patients, from  a new patient orientation class, diet and nutrition counseling with a registered dietitian, a research nurse to help patients  find out about and qualify for new treatments, a social worker, Medical Oncology department, full service Radiation department, a lymphedema specialist, Rehabilitation therapists and occupational therapists to fit for prosthetics, a Nurse Navigator is the latest way St. Joseph is making excellent and compassionate care easier. Sabo helps women with the details, so they can focus on getting better. For more information on the St. Joseph Cancer Center, visit: http://www.st-joseph.org/Cancer or call 979.774.0808.

Publish Date: 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

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