A Breast Cancer Story: From a Patient and Patient Navigator Perspective

    Patient – Leigh Ann
    Nurse Navigator – Robynn Working, Breast Patient Navigator/Mammographer at the Deaconess Breast Center












    Leigh Ann: I’m sharing my story because I want other women to know what to do if they find a lump in their breast.

    In August 2012, I found a lump. I was only 42, so breast cancer wasn’t something I’d really thought about. I had no family history so I didn’t really worry about breast cancer, to be quite honest.

    Many people may not know this, but breast lumps are often found during intimate encounters with partners, and that’s how mine was found.  Let me tell you, when my husband and I found it….that’s a show-stopper, right there!

    It was over a weekend, so on Monday I called the Deaconess Breast Center.  I’d been there for annual screening mammograms since I was 40. I told the receptionist that I’d found a lump over the weekend, and I asked if there were any openings on Wednesday (my day off) for me to come in.  A couple of days were no big deal to me, but I knew I needed to get it checked out.

    I was able to get an appointment for that Wednesday so I went to the Deaconess Breast Center for a mammogram. Since there was also a known lump, an ultrasound was done.  Shortly after both tests, a mammography technologist came back and said that the radiologist who looked at my tests said that he wanted to do a biopsy. I asked if it could be done on Friday, so it was scheduled. 

    On Monday, Robynn Working, the Deaconess Breast Center Breast Patient Navigator, called me.  I remember her asking me if it was a good time to talk, and if I was with someone or alone.  At that moment, I knew I had breast cancer.
    From that point on, the goal was for my treatment to begin immediately.  I’m young, have a couple of kids at home, and I knew I wanted to beat this, and do it quickly. That’s where Robynn came in.  She started scheduling additional imaging and consults immediately.   And when I say immediately, here’s how it looked:

    • Monday—I found out I had breast cancer.
    • Tuesday—I had the MRI for a complete evaluation.
    • Wednesday – I saw the surgeon for a lumpectomy consult
    • Thursday – I saw my oncologist, Dr. Christopher Braden of Deaconess Clinic Oncology.  Because of my young age, he wanted me to be checked for the BRCA gene mutation, which could change my surgical recommendation.  My blood was drawn then, and sent for testing. Surgery was postponed until we received the results of that testing.

    When we learned the results were negative for the mutation, and that a lumpectomy would be appropriate, my surgery was scheduled immediately. 

    During that first week, I saw and talked to Robynn a lot. She not only handled all of my scheduling and details related to that, but she gave me a lot of education. My mind was going 100 miles per hour, so it was nice to have someone else “be in charge,” and guide me through this fast and overwhelming process.

    Once my initial care was complete (surgery and consults), I transitioned from Robynn to Terri Kempf, who is the Oncology Nurse Navigator for breast cancer patients at Chancellor Center for Oncology.

    I have to say, these navigators were so helpful to me. They answered any question I had, supported me along the way, and were my single point of contact any time I had a worry or question.

    I’m now finished with chemo and radiation, and soon I’ll be finished with Herceptin (hormone-targeted therapy).  Next I’ll begin the routine screening schedule for women who are recent survivors. I know I’ll get to see Robynn more, as she’ll check in on me as I continue follow-up imaging care.

    And I’m glad to report that life goes on! I’m rocking my new hairdo and my hair has more body than it did before! My kids, ages 13 and 16, keep me and my husband busy. And I love being back to work part time in a clothing store.
    So on that final note, as a breast cancer survivor, I want to encourage ALL women reading this to do the following:

    • Get your annual screening mammogram starting at age 40.  Don’t be afraid, and make it part of caring for yourself.  Make it “your day,” and maybe have lunch with a friend, get your nails done, etc.  Or spend time with your family—that’s what it’s all for, so you can live a long life with them.
    • IF YOU FIND A LUMP LIKE I DID:  Call the Deaconess Breast Center at 450-MAMM.  There are same-day appointments available, and you deserve the peace of mind of finding out exactly what it is as soon as possible.


    Robynn: I’ve been working in mammography for 32 years, and have been working in this navigator role for 13 years. During that time, it’s been my privilege to help approximately 200 women per year through the challenging diagnosis of breast cancer.

    As Leigh Ann indicated, my role is to try to pave the path for a woman who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. I help with referrals, scheduling appointments, etc.  But the part of my job I find particularly fulfilling is the education. I try to help women understand what their diagnosis really means.  The good news is that 98% of women will survive if their breast cancer is found early.

    Also, as Leigh Ann mentioned, once a woman begins her treatment with oncologists (which may include chemo, radiation or both), my colleague Terri Kempf will begin guiding the patient. She’s the Breast Cancer Navigator for Chancellor Center for Oncology.  Terri works with the doctors and patients to set up a treatment schedule and she supports the women throughout. That may mean helping her find a wig, find transportation, help with insurance issues, referrals to counseling if needed, etc.

    Deaconess Breast Services is Evansville’s only NAPBC accredited facility. That means from beginning (screening) to end (survivorship), our facilities have proven they’re a center of excellence.  No other Evansville facility has navigators who offer this level of service and support to patients. 

    Terri and I find our jobs to be incredibly fulfilling.  Each day, I get to help a woman through the challenging, sometimes stressful and frightening, journey through breast cancer. 

    I get to know these women well. Years later when these women are coming back for their annual mammogram, I get to see them, find out how their families are doing, how they’re feeling, and answer any questions they have going forward about their future as a breast cancer survivor.

    Besides being a navigator, there are other reasons that I’m proud to work for Deaconess Breast Services.
    I mentioned our special NAPBC accreditation earlier.  There are other factors that are unique to Deaconess that helped us get that accreditation.
    • We are the only facility that has a designation of Breast Imaging Center of Excellence.
    • Our multidisciplinary approach is a team effort with radiologists, surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, and pathologists.  A collective team sits down together to review cases and discuss best treatment options for the patients.
    • We have the latest technology available in breast imaging.

    3D Mammography
    We are so excited to let you know that we now offer 3D mammography—an extraordinary technology that lets your doctor see breast tissue in a way never seen before. Our new breast imaging system from Hologic—a world leader in digital mammography—is the most exciting advancement in breast cancer detection in over 30 years.

    3D mammography captures multiple visual slices of the breast, all at different angles. The images are brought together to create a crystal-clear 3D reconstruction of the breast. The radiologist is then able to review the reconstruction, one thin slice at a time, almost like turning pages in a book. That makes it easier for the doctors to see if there’s anything to be concerned about. And, there’s less chance for a cancer to hide behind overlapping tissue. Additionally, this technology leads to an increase in cancer detection rate and a reduction in “false positives” (fewer call-backs for additional imaging).

    The Deaconess Foundation helped purchase this wonderful technology. They have always been very supportive of Deaconess Breast Services and our mission to provide the highest quality of care to Tri-State women.
    Posted: June 20, 2014 by Jessica Gerlach
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