Betty Stallard, 52, was shocked to learn her mammogram from the Bronson Center for Women found a lump that needed evaluation.
“Part of me was angry at myself. I thought, ‘I do self exams, I should have caught this.’ But I learned that it probably wasn’t detectable that way.”
Self doubt. Fear. Anger. These emotions and more plagued Betty as she tried to process everything she heard. Fortunately for Betty, she didn’t go through the process alone. She had Jill Elyea, RN, a patient navigator at Bronson Methodist Hospital. The patient navigator is a free service available to all Bronson patients with a positive mammogram. It’s designed to improve coordination of care. Some of the things a patient navigator can help with include:
- Helping the patient understand diagnosis and treatment options
- Facilitating timely access to appointments and resources
- Coordinating appointments with referring physician and surgeon’s offices
- Providing the patient with pre- and post-surgical education and support
- Working with patients and families on their personal needs and concerns, such as transportation, finance, cosmeticb services, nutrition and genetic counseling
- Coordinating with the West Michigan Cancer Center, the American Cancer Society and other community resources
“A couple of days after the mammogram, I got a call from the Bronson Center for Women. They asked me to come back. I could tell there was a concern. That’s when I met Jill. She explained what to expect. She kept me focused. She kept calling and checking on me. She’d ask, ‘Do you understand what’s going on?’ I didn’t, of course. She explained the biopsy to me. She was with me when they did the biopsy. She’s been wonderful.”
Betty, an environmental services manager at Bronson, says the experience deepened her appreciation for the care and treatment patients receive from Bronson.
“I’ve always been proud of Bronson. I see, on a day-to-day basis, how Bronson cares about its customers,” she says. “But I’d never seen it from the patient’s perspective through an ongoing process like this. Now I can honestly say I’ve felt that care myself.”
Betty’s treatment is an ongoing journey. She just finished the fifth of six chemotherapy treatments, which will be followed by radiation, hormone therapy and regular follow-up care. And Jill will be there along the way.
“She still calls me to check in. If I don’t understand something I can contact her,” Betty says. “She helped me face what I needed to face. You can’t get that from doctors. I learned that who you meet along the way can make a big difference in your treatment, because it is often about connecting with the right people, the right resources. Jill helped me do that.”