Busy Mom, Exercise Enthusiast and Nurse Navigator Patient
“When I have a problem, now I know there’s an answer. I call Jessica. She’s a one-button dial on my cell phone. I just press her number and I know I’m good.”
Her Nurse Navigator Reduced the Stress and Confusion of Having Breast Cancer
In summer 2011, Ethel Miller of Linwood already had plenty to cope with as a single mom who had been laid off from her job. Then in early August she found out she had breast cancer.
Ethel had a mastectomy in early September and started chemotherapy at the end of the month, beginning dozens of medical appointments that breast cancer patients typically have in the year following diagnosis. As she started her journey, Ethel encountered an abrupt, steep learning curve.
“Things have to be done in a certain order, and that’s not always easy to figure out,” she said. While she worked hard to find all the information needed, Ethel found it difficult to make her own connections and plans. “I struggled with where to go and what to do next. It led to so many tears and so much frustration.”
A Personal Guide ‘Connects the Dots’
But early that fall Ethel found help when the Center for Women’s Health at MidMichigan Medical Center–Midland began offering the personalized support she needed. She was one of the first patients to work with Breast Patient Navigator Jessica Fodrocy, R.N., B.S.N., C.B.P.N.-I.C.
Certified by the National Consortium of Breast Centers, Jessica translates medical information, answers questions and helps patients and their families understand the plan of care and what to expect from treatments and medications. She coordinates care with other team members, briefs patients before appointments and links to community-based resources as needed.
“Jessica is my connection point between all the doctors and services,” Ethel said. “She connects the dots, talking me through what to do next and helping me solve problems.”
Ethel remembers calling Jessica at 8 o’clock one morning, upset with a huge concern. By the time Jessica promptly returned the call, she had already made the right appointment for Ethel with the doctor who could help. When Ethel had trouble with the shoulder on the same side as her mastectomy, the nurse navigator quickly put her in touch with a physical therapist. She coordinated arrangements for Ethel’s bone scan, advised her about her insurance coverage, and much more.
“Two of my friends had breast cancer diagnoses within weeks of mine, but they went elsewhere for treatment and don’t have a nurse navigator. We’ve talked about how great it is to have somebody I can call on,” she said. “I tell them things I’ve learned from Jessica, such as the benefit of physical therapy to prevent muscle spasms and pain after mastectomy.”
Ethel describes Jessica as a combination of her best friend, her assistant, and the person who knows her way around the hospital. “When I have a problem, now I know there’s an answer. Instead of my first thought being, ‘Oh no, what am I going to do,’ I just call Jessica. She’s a one-button dial on my cell phone contact list. I just press her number and I know I’m good.”
Whenever they talk, Jessica asks how Ethel is feeling and what she’s doing to help herself be well, including her exercise program. Early in the process, Ethel, who enjoys the dance-based workouts of Zumba®, set a goal to continue them through chemotherapy. As soon as her surgeon allowed it, she returned to her regular exercise group.
Feeling Good and Helping Others
Now finished with her chemotherapy, Ethel says she feels pretty good. She will take an oral medication called tamoxifen for four years as part of a clinical trial at MidMichigan. In January, she felt well enough to start looking for a job and is now working as a dietary manager in Saginaw.
Ethel feels a strong bond to Jessica and everyone at the Center for Women’s Health. In fact, on the anniversary of her surgery, she celebrated by raising funds to provide gas cards for patients who can’t afford to drive to their appointments at the center.
“Everybody there is so great. Every time I walked into reception, they knew who I was and they were excited to see me, but calm at the same time. Their attitude helps patients take things in stride. With them on your side, you know you’re not going through this alone.”
Doctors caring for Ethel during her breast cancer journey include Obstetrician-Gynecologist Cheryl L. Dwyer, D.O.; Breast Surgeon Ellsworth E. Ludwig, M.D. (now retired); Medical Oncologist Michel R. Hurtubise, M.D.; Plastic Surgeon Steven M. Morris, M.D.; and Orthopaedic Surgeon John V. Murphy, D.O.
“Without hesitation, I would recommend every one of my doctors and everyone at the Center for Women’s Health, including the breast patient nurse navigator. With all the confidence in the world, I think I made the best decisions and have no regrets. I couldn’t ask for a better health care team.” Zumba is a registered trademark of Zumba Fitness, LLC.
To learn more about MidMichigan’s breast health program, including the Breast Patient Nurse Navigator, visit www.midmichigan.org/breast. For a referral to a physician associated with MidMichigan’s breast health program, call MidMichigan Health Line toll-free at (800) 999-3199.
Fully accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC), the breast health program at MidMichigan offers advanced technology and techniques, including image checker, digital mammography, breast MRI, and stereotactic breast biopsy. The Center is also accredited by Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology (ACR).