“In 2015, there will be an estimated 231,840 new breast cancer cases diagnosed and 40,290 cancer deaths in the US.” ~ American Cancer Society
When I was in college, my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She hadn’t done anything “wrong” to make her high risk, except maybe live to be 80.
My family was lucky. Not only will Grandma be celebrating her 90th birthday this summer, but all four of her sons and their wives live within an hour of her. During her treatment she had a large family support system who could care for her. Especially my aunt.
My aunt had been a stay-at-home mom and once her kids were grown had the good fortune to continue staying at home. A caretaker by nature, she took up Grandma’s treatment with a sense of purpose. She pulled strings where she could, cleared her calendar, took charge of care coordination and documented everything with the razor sharp precision. She was the navigator for our most important patient.
This is an extremely fortunate situation to be in. “Blessing” doesn’t begin to describe it.
As Grandma went through treatment I was given a glimpse into just how confusing and complicated cancer treatment really is. Which treatment option should be selected and how aggressively? What are the side-effects and how do they impact quality of life? And though we should never have to think about it, what are the financial obligations and how will the be met? It is a full-time job and then some.
Several years later, after Grandma had received the “cancer free” proclamation, I learned about the Breast Cancer Resource Centers of Texas (BCRC). Located here in Austin, BCRC provides services to breast cancer patients (men and women) so that they can focus on their sole mission: beating cancer. Their flagship service is patient navigation, almost the exact service I saw my aunt provide Grandma.
From my personal experience and in my role as a BCRC volunteer, I’ve become passionate about others fighting breast cancer knowing about patient navigation and being able to take advantage of it. A patient navigator, as defined by BCRC, “strive[s] to eliminate barriers…individually assess each person to determine how we can help. The critical window of opportunity, when patient navigation is most effective, is between the point of an abnormal finding and the point of that finding’s resolution with diagnosis and treatment. We promote the timely movement of an individual across the entire health care continuum from prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment, support and end of life care.”
Patient navigation is a priceless resource. However what BCRC offers doesn’t stop there. A quick summary of their other services and programs is as follows.
- Educational Classes: Breast Cancer 101 on Tuesdays and the ongoing Educate & Empower series.
- Support Groups: by location, diagnosis and age-group; a Spanish speaking group is also available.
- Pink Ribbon Cowgirls: an online support group for women under 45.
- Lotus Link: an online support group of women for all ages.
- AsSisters: practical support from trained volunteers including transportation, light housework, prescription pick-up and more.
- Mammography Resources: to help those with financial barriers receive mammograms and other preventative/screening treatment.
If you or someone you love is affected by breast cancer, I encourage you to call BCRC or visit their website to see if their programs or services could help in your fight against breast cancer. If you are not in need of their services but would like to be involved, please consider volunteering, making a donation, simply telling others, or attending this spring’s fundraising event, Art Bra Austin, a bra fashion show featuring breast cancer survivors. We are incredibly proud that our VERY own AMB Contributor, Lisa Davis will be a model in the show. She IS a breast cancer survivor!
What other resources are available in and around Austin for those fighting breast cancer?