She began to neglect her supportive friends and stopped going to social gatherings, as she “didn’t want to draw attention or sympathy to herself.” I worked with her on options and different programs that would help her gain confidence in her appearance, but her overall concern was financing a wig or head scarf. We went through several different resources, but she was still struggling in finding “the” head coverings that made her look and feel like herself again.
Finally, after much research, I found a resource that assisted breast cancer patients with free headscarves as long as they met certain qualifications. Mary really liked this alternative to a wig, and stated that it would even be warmer for her as she underwent her chemo appointments, as she was also on blood thinners and got cold easily. She was able to choose her favorite type, style, and color. She stated that she finally had control over something in her life again and was happier with herself. Although this was not a wig like she was hoping to find, this relatively simple solution caused a huge turnaround in her emotional state. She began to visit with her friends again and was able to resume her day to day activities again.
Patricia’s “boost” that she received from the free housecleaning resource, as well as Mary’s turnaround in control of her appearance not only lifted their spirits, but also served as an inspiration to me in my role as a navigator. Seeing these patients’ changes showed me that the navigator’s role is an important one for patients with cancer. Providing extra help and finding resources out to patients and their caregivers allows us to not only support, but also to empower, patients throughout their cancer journey.
Megan Whittington is Cancer Care Liaison at Northside Hospital Cancer Institute in Atlanta, Georgia.