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Navigating your cancer journey

Written by Community Health Network on 7/3/2014 6:00:00 AM

A cancer diagnosis can be extremely emotional, and making sense of health information can also be overwhelming. That is why Community has a dedicated cancer care team and oncology nurse navigators to help cancer patients on their journey.

Sharon Bronnenberg, breast health navigator We sat down with breast health navigator, Sharon Bronnenberg, RN, BSN, OCN, CBCN, to talk about the role an oncology navigator plays in a cancer treatment.

What does a oncology nurse navigator do?
I act as a guide, resource, advocate, educator and liaison for newly diagnosed cancer patients and their family. As an oncology navigator with a focus on breast health, my goal is to get answers to all of their questions so that we allay their fears.

I am a consistent caregiver throughout the cancer journey, coordinating appointments and schedules, and providing resources and information. But the most important thing I do is provide support and hope.

What should a cancer patient expect the first time they meet you?
When I meet with a newly diagnosed breast cancer patient I make sure they know their plan of care, as well as the other doctors that they will be seeing. 

I also let them know that they will be very busy when they begin treatment, but that as a breast navigator I will try hard to go to all of their appointments with them. From the very first appointment, I educate and reassure the patient by taking notes and answering questions.

Continuity of care is vital for us in order to make the patient feel comfortable and earn their trust. We all have the same goal: To do everything possible to have the best possible outcome for the patient. continue reading ...


Stacy's story: Part IV

Written by Community Health Network on 6/24/2014 8:00:00 AM

This is the final post in a four-part blog series. Stacy Costa is a breast cancer survivor who was treated at Community Cancer Care Center. One year into survivorship, she credits Dr. Robert Goulet and her breast cancer team for her survival.

“I thought I knew what to expect with breast cancer," said Costa. "As an 18-year-old girl my aunt’s breast cancer experience was very vivid. I knew about surgery, chemotherapy and that you typically lost your hair."

Costa expected to be prepared for the side effects of breast cancer, but she wasn't. When she fit began to lose her hair, it was very emotional.

“I thought the hair loss wouldn’t matter, but it did," said Costa. "As I showered, bits of my hair, or what was left of it, washed away. But it didn’t wash off of me easily.”

Costa decided to take control and shave her head.

In doing so, she was surprised to find that her husband, little boy and brother shaved their heads too - a show of support and solidarity.

“It was a really cool moment when my little boy Aaron said he wanted to look like me,” said Costa. “It really touched me that my older brother shaved his head too, and when asked at work (jokingly) ‘Why – do you have cancer?’ His reply was no, my sister does. He’s a great big brother and that strength is my strength.”

Costa didn’t hide or take a break from work after she shaved her head. She did just the opposite and chose to sport a new hats or bandanas.

But even now, as a survivor, Costa can still see the side effects of treatment.

“I could control the pain from the treatments and recovery process, but I couldn’t control the fact that my hair came back curlier and grayer, or that my finger nails and toenails grow weirdly now,” said Costa. “I knew we were getting rid of the bad cancer cells, but other little things changed too."

She said that have to get comfortable with change and find the beauty and strength within yourself.

Costa said, "You have to say, 'It’s all about me', and make that your health the focus.”

To read more about Costa's journey with cancer and survivorship, see our previous blog posts. 


Stacy's story: Part III

Written by Community Health Network on 6/23/2014 8:00:00 AM

This is the third post in a four-part blog series. Stacy Costa is a breast cancer survivor who was treated at Community Cancer Care Center. One year into survivorship, she credits Dr. Robert Goulet and her breast cancer team for her survival.

Stacy Costa has two day jobs; mom and youth ministry director at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Noblesville, Indiana. After she shared her diagnosis with her children, Costa had to share the news with the one-hundred teens that she leads through her church. 

Costa wasn't surprised by their shock or questions, rather their positive attitudes and willingness to help.

”One of the girls called me and asked to talk to my husband (Chad)," said Costa. "Next thing I knew she was over my house taking my children out for ice cream so that I could have some alone time with Chad. I really appreciated that gesture."

Stacy Costa at youth retreatStacy said that she felt the need to be forever positive during her cancer journey, especially with youth group. She wanted to get healthy so that she could get back to leading youth retreats.

“When I told Dr. Goulet and my nurse navigator that I participated in large retreats for teens, they both looked at my like I led a crazy life," said Costa. 

But it was the passion for those retreats and life that propelled Costa forward into remission. She said that in order to overcome her cancer she had to focus on the things that fueled her. 

“Healing and recovering from cancer means it has to be about you,” she said. "For me it was my family, my children and my youth group."

Now a cancer survivor, Costa has resumed many of her crazy life activities like retreats. In November, for three days, Stacy was part of the core team leading over 25,000 area students at the National Catholic Youth Conference. 

“We water and watch them (youth) grow,” said Costa. 

Living life with cancer
At Community, we believe that you don't have to stop doing the things you love because of your cancer. Instead, our physicians and cancer care teams provide you with the tools to understand your symptoms, side effects and how to care for yourself. To learn more about our integrated approach to care, visit our cancer care website.


Stacy's story: Part II

Written by Community Health Network on 6/17/2014 8:00:00 AM

This is the second post in a four-part blog series. Stacy Costa is a breast cancer survivor who was treated at Community Regional Cancer Care Center. One year into survivorship, she credits Dr. Robert Goulet and her breast cancer team for her survival.

Breast cancer care takes a full team of support at Community

Community Cancer Care provides breast health navigators to patients who are diagnosed with breast cancer. Breast health navigators are available to answer questions concerning breast health, provide education and support, coordinate care as needed, and prepare breast cancer patients for survivors

“I had three nurse navigators, Natalie, Sharlee and Tracy,” said Costa. “I think I’ll be seeing Dr. Goulet, Dr. Walling and the wonderful ladies of my breast care team on and off for the rest of my life.”

Breast health navigators provide continuity for patients and their families throughout their healthcare experience, during what can be a very stressful time in a woman’s life.

“Natalie calmed me down when I first learned of my diagnosis and had so many decisions to make,” said Costa. “I had a lot of questions and concerns. She tackled each one and we got answers together. It didn’t matter how crazy the question was, she delivered the answers in ways that I could manage them.”

Breast health navigators also provide assistance with appointments, surgery preparations and at treatments. continue reading ...


Stacy's story: Part I

Written by Community Health Network on 6/10/2014 7:00:00 AM

“Is there anything I can do to help you? Maybe take the kids out for a few hours?” Those are the types of things that can really help. What you don’t want to say to a (breast) cancer patient is “How are you feeling today?”

When Stacy Costa was 18 and her aunt, age 31, was diagnosed with breast cancer, she remembers thinking to herself that she was going to get cancer too.

“It was just a feeling because four people on my mom’s side had cancer,” said Costa.

Knowing her family history, Costa stayed conscious of her breast health and very self-aware of what felt normal and what did not. Part of that included performing routine self-exams. It was one of those routine self-exams that told her a lump in her breast was different and it shouldn’t hurt to touch. She acted quickly and called her family doctor.

It started with an ultrasound and moved onto the radiology department where she had a mammogram screening and was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Upon receiving the diagnosis Costa reached out to her mother, a former nurse and pharmaceutical representative, who put her in touch with Community Breast Care Center.

“I made the call to Community and got in quickly,” said Costa. “I asked my mom to come with me, not so much because she was my mom, but because she could translate all the medical-speak. But Dr. Goulet (breast surgeon) spoke to me so plainly that I didn’t need to worry. He was so good at giving me all the information and letting me take time to make decisions.”

Costa said she wasn’t surprised by her diagnosis and that she would need surgery and chemotherapy. But she did wonder if the family history was a factor, so Dr. Goulet did a gene test. continue reading ...


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Appointments available!

To make an appointment with an MD Anderson Cancer Network® certified physician at Community, call 800-777-7775 today!



Meet our nurse navigators

When it comes to your fight against cancer, they've got your back. Our nurse navigators act as a guide, resource, advocate and educator for newly diagnosed cancer patients and their families. Learn more here.


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