'You're not alone'. While these three little words may offer little comfort while you're reeling from the shock of being newly diagnosed, it's an absolute given that no one ever faces their cancer journey in isolation.
And now that 'navigation' is acknowledged as a vital part of your multidisciplinary care, you'll have a constant guiding presence at your side, a person flying the flag for you every step of the way while doing his or her best to ease some of the trauma.
The Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators, describes the role of your navigator - usually a registered nurse with oncology experience - as your personal guide, who is there to support and to educate, to liaise and advocate on your behalf, and to generally do everything possible in order to smooth your path throughout your cancer journey. Your navigator is your principal point of contact, your partner, your guardian angel and your 'voice', someone you can talk to and lean on at any given stage.
"We're there to decrease your anxiety and stress levels as much as possible all the way through from diagnosis to recovery," explains Clinical Patient Navigator Zamokuhle Mguli, "And one of the best ways to do this is to ensure that you're always well prepared and well-informed about whatever lies in store."
What will your navigator do for you?
Since your navigator forms such an essential part of your multidisciplinary team, you'll be introduced soon after you're diagnosed. As your primary go-to person, your navigator will then liaise with all the other members of your treatment team, working behind the scenes to ensure that your journey runs smoothly. To this end, says Mguli, your navigator will:
- What kind of cancer do I have?
- Where is the cancer at the moment? Has it spread to other parts of my body?
- How common is my cancer?
- Are there any further tests that I need to have?
- What will I experience when having the test/s?
Questions to ask about your prognosis:
- Set up appointments with your different health professionals such as your oncologist and surgeon to discuss your treatment plan, as well as scheduling other appointments throughout your journey
- Answer all of your diagnosis- and treatment-related questions. This will help to give you some form of control and to empower you when it comes to all forms of decision-making
- Stress the importance of compliance at every single stage and make sure you're following your doctors' orders
- Offer a shoulder to cry on and a safe place to vent. You'll also have someone to listen to you as you voice any fears and anxieties
- Refer you to a counsellor and/or a support group both of which will go a long way in removing some of the fear factor
- Educate and counsel you prior to any treatment you may be having whether surgery, chemo or radiation, to ensure that you have a good understanding about every aspect of what you'll be dealing with/facing
- Track your progress at the weekly multi-disciplinary team meetings to discuss subsequent steps in your treatment plan and which member of your team you'll need to see next
- Visit you on a daily basis when you're admitted to hospital to keep an eye on you
- Routinely call you during chemo and radiation to monitor your health and wellbeing, to enable you to ask questions that may arise during treatment such as how to deal with side effects, and to identify any challenges e.g. you may be feeling depressed and may need counselling or your hair loss may require an appointment with a wig specialist
- Regularly follow up with both you and your treating doctors to confirm that things are running according to plan and to sort out any issues or problems that may arise.
Most importantly, your navigator will be a constant presence and a friendly face during both the good and the bad days, assisting in every aspect and at every stage of this often overwhelming and extremely stressful journey. By taking on a lot of the confusing admin that goes hand in hand with a cancer diagnosis, your navigator will also ultimately gift you with the 'freedom' to concentrate on what should be your primary goal right now: to get through treatment while firmly focussed on recovery.
All medical information found on this website including content, graphics and images, is for educational and informational objectives only. Discovery Health publishes this content to help to empower cancer patients and their families by promoting a better understanding of a cancer diagnosis. The views expressed by all of the contributing healthcare providers are their independent, professional medical opinions, aimed at supporting patients. These views do not necessarily constitute the views of Discovery Health.
Severe illness can be life-changing. Discovery is here for you
At Discovery, we understand that an illness like cancer affects many aspects of your life. If you're a Discovery Health Medical Scheme member who is diagnosed with cancer, you are covered by a comprehensive Oncology Programme. You'll also have access to a palliative care programme, which offers unlimited cover for approved care at home.
To protect you financially, Discovery Life offers the best dread disease product in the market for cancer cover, as awarded by the Independent Clinical Oncology Network. Our award-winning LifeTime Max 200% Severe Illness Benefit offers coverage across the full spectrum of severities and coverage for remission of a cancer. Contact us to learn more.
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