Reflections of a Patient Navigator in Cancer Treatment

When I first started working on ICARE, which stands for Improving Cancer Survival and Reducing Treatment Variation with Protocols for Emergency Care, something our patient navigation manager said stuck with me: She told me that from the moment that a person is diagnosed with cancer, we call them a cancer survivor, no matter the outcome. Throughout my tenure as a project coordinator on ICARE, the actions of everyone involved encapsulated this idea of hope.

She told me that from the moment that a person is diagnosed with cancer, we call them a cancer survivor, no matter the outcome.

ICARE began in 2019 with the foundational understanding of the need to create change. African Americans have the highest death rates and the smallest chance of survival of any racial/ethnic group for most types of cancer. Even with significant improvements in early detection and treatment, health disparities in cancer survivorship remain profound. ICARE focuses on increasing survivorship through direct community outreach. The ICARE team of physicians and cancer navigators connect with survivors immediately following their emergency department visits and follow them over time. This connection creates a direct pipeline between patient needs and resources. Resources provide medical, financial and community supports and draw upon partnerships between the UI Health Cancer Center, the emergency department-based clinical decision unit and the Mile Square Health Center.

The words of our patient navigation manager adjusted my thinking about cancer and fueled my passion to look for new resources and ways to help survivors. I gained a perspective much different from the one generally depicted in cancer treatment; instead of sadness, I work with a people who have an unrequited passion for prevention. The ICARE staff and the entire project is committed to changing the narrative of cancer, creating a narrative of strength and longevity instead of hopelessness.

About the Author

Nia Butler is a patient navigator and coordinator for the ICARE project.