Whitehall woman bonds with Patient Navigator after a breast cancer diagnosis

Diane Larsen is always sure to get her regularly scheduled mammogram, even if COVID-19 had made her think twice about venturing out of her house in March. Since she had extensive experiences with mammograms, being asked to return on a later date so that Dr. Hassan Massouh could investigate a lump did not ring too many alarms.

Diane previously had follow-ups after a mammogram only to find out the lump was a non-issue, so she had assumed this time would be no different. That feeling quickly faded as Dr. Massouh examined her ultrasound and he told her that she would need an unscheduled biopsy completed before she left.

“Well, we were in the ultrasound room and Dr. Massouh said there was definitely something there. He was pretty positive it was something that we needed to be really concerned about,” Diane recalled. “It was pretty shocking and of course with the COVID-19 restrictions I was all alone and I hadn't brought anybody with me. It was very hard news to receive regardless but the pandemic added a little more stress .”

Diane is no stranger to the disease as her husband passed away from cancer in 2007. Having an idea of what the treatment might be like for her, based on his experience, was a little overwhelming. Like most people who are diagnosed with cancer, there is so much information about treatment that is presented to you while you are still processing the diagnosis.

Enter Jodi Huckins, the St. James Cancer Center’s Patient Navigator. After receiving the diagnosis Diane and Jodi spoke about the next steps of treatment, building out a schedule, and most importantly answering any questions Diane might have about what will happen next.

“Jodi told me everything was going to be okay and held my hand while they were doing the biopsy. After she was a great resource and helped me with the paperwork, scheduling my lumpectomy, and introduced me to team in the Cancer Center,” said Diane. “Jodi was there every step of the way and reminded me that we'd get through the process.”

With her previous experience with her husband, Diane was worried about having to travel far for her treatment. After discussions with Jodi and speaking with her daughter-in-law about the staff at the St. James Cancer Center, Diane knew that she would be in good hands.

So far Diane has completed a lumpectomy and has finished her five weeks of radiation treatments. All the while she had Jodi and the staff at the Cancer Center at her side helping her through the tougher days and keeping a smile on her face.

“Everybody's just very friendly and very nice and because of the pandemic they are my interaction group right now, this whole clinic,” said Diane. “When you first get your diagnosis, you're in a kind of a state of shock. But when you meet people that are friendly and outgoing and they make you feel comfortable.”


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