Breast cancer is a life-changing event — one you cannot anticipate or plan for. Hearing the word “cancer” often produces an overwhelming emotional response, from shock and denial to anger and anxiety. But while receiving a diagnosis of cancer is a traumatic event, it is often the days that follow that can be the hardest as you face a daunting array of appointments, decisions and unfamiliar language.
Mission Hospital created an innovative Nurse Navigator program, providing patients with the support of specially trained nurses through every step of the journey — from diagnosis through treatment and recovery. For Aime Morrison, 51, of Aliso Viejo, the Nurse Navigator program was invaluable when she received a breast cancer diagnosis in November 2016.
“Even as I heard those words, it felt like I immediately had someone there for me on my team,” said Aime, a mother of two who has worked as a nurse herself in the Labor and Delivery Unit at Mission Hospital for 19 years. “My nurse navigator hugged me, allowed me to cry and helped me call my husband. She patiently explained to me everything that needed to be done and helped me through those crucial first weeks, from explaining to me my treatment options, managing insurance authorizations, and scheduling appointments.”
One such appointment made for Aime was an invitation to attend Mission Hospital’s Planning Conference (also known as “Tumor Board”) — a weekly meeting that brings together a multidisciplinary team of caregivers, including breast and plastic surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, genetic specialists and nurse specialists. The group collaborates to develop a comprehensive treatment plan individualized for each patient.
As the only program of its kind in Orange County, Mission Hospital’s Tumor Board invites the patient to be a part of this process — allowing the patient to be seen by every specialist on the same day and the opportunity to share their specific concerns and desires with the entire team. This not only reduces the number of appointments, but speeds up the treatment process.
“The Tumor Board is beneficial for the patient because members of each specialty bring their own experience and latest research to the table,” said Kenneth Kushner, MD, board-certified general surgeon at Mission Hospital.
“We each have a unique view based on our training and expertise, and the Tumor Board allows us to determine the best approach to treat and care for a patient," he said. By sharing knowledge and examining the patient together, we are able to collaborate and offer optimal treatment recommendations to the patient that same day.”
For Aime, the recommended treatment plan was five months of chemotherapy followed by surgery to remove the tumor in her breast. While the Nurse Navigators remained in close contact with her along every step of the process, Aime also found comfort in joining Mission Hospital’s breast cancer support group to help her cope with the emotional effects of her journey.
“With an amazing group of girlfriends and an incredibly supportive husband, I didn’t feel that I needed any additional support,” Aime said. “But after joining the group, I was so thankful for the women I met along the way. They inspired me with their stories, helped me understand what to expect and are the people who can truly relate to what you’re going through. It was the icing on the cake of the great cancer care I continue to receive at Mission Hospital.”
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VALIANT WOMEN THINK PINK BREAST HEALTH WALL OF HONOR
Honor or remember a loved one and help to support screening, diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. Through Oct. 31, visit the beautiful digital display of tributes at the Wall of Honor at The Shops at Mission Viejo and honor someone whose life has been touched by breast cancer. To donate online, please visit mission4health.com/ wallofhonor.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.