Nurse Navigator Making a Difference for Cancer Patients
Dave and Jean Brown
For Dave and Jean Brown of Tamworth, managing Dave’s complex cancers and juggling multiple appointments, tests and medications is a daunting, full-time job.
Fortunately, they have Payson Center for Cancer Care Nurse Navigator Caitlin Roberts on their care team.
“We couldn’t imagine what it would be like without her,” said Jean. “She has carried us through. We would have been very isolated and it would have been a much lonelier and confusing journey.”
Dave, who is 75, suffers from chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow that raised his risk of other cancers. He also is being treated for a rare immune system disorder in which cancer-fighting antibodies attack normal cells. In addition, he had surgery, chemotherapy with radiation and now is undergoing immunotherapy for skin cancer, complicated by his compromised immune system.
Dave and Jean said Roberts has been a constant and valued presence during his complex care since joining them for their first radiology consultation after Dave’s skin cancer surgery in February.
“We had never heard of a nurse navigator,” said Jean, “But at that first meeting, she explained her position to us and I think it was two days later that I was calling her with a question. She just navigates everything -- it’s a perfect word – navigates. She helped us navigate through all of the different departments and she explains everything and handles appointments and recommends things to help us.
“We refer to her as our guardian angel,” Jean said.
When complications developed with Dave’s neck surgical wound and the remainder of the skin cancer tumor that could not be removed, Roberts recommended and expedited an appointment with Concord Hospital’s Wound Healing Center.
“She always has the right touch, just understanding that it was a very confusing and upsetting situation,” Jean said.
When Dave began losing weight, she connected them with Payson’s dietitian.
Roberts often helps consolidate appointments to make it more convenient for Dave, who gets exhausted by the hour and a half drive to Concord Hospital. And she accompanies the Browns to appointments to support them and ensure she can answer questions that might arise later.
“Caitlin is so nice and so helpful and she knows so much,” Dave said. “I love her.”
Roberts and Payson’s other nurse navigator, Kim Pauliks, are patients’ main contacts, supporting them and their families, helping them understand their treatment and easing their concerns so they can concentrate on their cancer.
“Everybody is caring, but Caitlin is the link that is essential to our comfort,” Jean said.
Jean and Dave agree that Roberts and Payson Center’s nurse navigation program has been crucial to Dave’s cancer care.
“This is just a vital, literally vital position for any cancer patient and anyone who has had anything to do with cancer,” Jean said. “It is not a frill.”