AUSTIN, Texas – (Dec. 16, 2014) – A few minutes after taking a seat in the Cancer Care Collaborative conference room, tears welled up in Eva’s eyes.
“Being here brings back a lot of memories,” she explained. “When I was diagnosed with cancer, I was so angry and scared.”
Eva, 58, is a cervical cancer survivor. In 2008, she was diagnosed at University Medical Center Brackenridge with a locally advanced stage 2 cervical cancer by Dr. Mark Crozier, a gynecologist oncologist.
After six months of treatment, including 28 sessions of radiation and six weeks of chemotherapy, Eva is cancer-free. Her regular follow-up visits and tests have shown no sign of recurrence or metastasis.
In 2013, a treatment navigator at Shivers Cancer Center, Nurse Maria Rios, noticed that Eva was depressed and referred her to Veronica Serrano, a survivorship nurse navigator with the Ascension Seton Women’s Oncology Care Navigation Delivery System Reform Improvement Project (DSRIP).
When Eva met Veronica for the first time in January 2014, she was physically strong and healthy. Eva had been spared many of the long-term side effects common among cervical cancer survivors.
But she was struggling emotionally and at times so depressed that she did not want to get out of bed in the morning. Like many cancer survivors, she also worried that the cancer might someday return.
“When I met Veronica, I had an appointment to talk to my primary care physician about my depression, but I was too scared and ashamed to go,” Eva said. Eva, who was born in Mexico, explained that in her culture, people who admit to being depressed are often stigmatized.
“If you take medicine or see a counselor, some people will think you are crazy,” she said.
Veronica, who worked at the American Cancer Society before joining Ascension Seton, reassured Eva that talking to someone would make her feel better and that there was nothing wrong with taking medication for depression.
“I think what helped Eva the most is the reassurance that she was doing the right thing and that she would feel better after getting help,” Veronica said.
With emotional support from Veronica, Eva kept her appointment with her primary care physician and started taking an antidepressant. She also underwent six weeks of mental health counseling that helped her open up and let go of some of the pain and sadness that was building up inside of her.
“People can’t help you if they don’t know the truth,” she said. “Getting help changed my life for the better.”
Eva is also working with another member of the DSRIP team, survivorship health promoter Jorge Escamilla, who is helping Eva manage her recently diagnosed Type 2 Diabetes. With the support of Jorge and the rest of the DSRIP team, Eva has been able to manage her diabetes through diet and exercise.
“Jorge gave me a lot of good information about what kind of life I need to lead to stay healthy,” Eva said.
Ascension Seton team also helped Eva achieve another one of the goals that she set for herself: finding health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Today Eva is fully insured and no longer has to worry how she will pay her medical bills. She is working two jobs and in her own words doing “great.”
Eva and many of the cancer survivors like her who are receiving personalized support and navigation through the Women’s Oncology Care Navigation program may not know what a DSRIP is, but they are thriving in no small part because of it.
“I am so grateful to Ascension Seton and feel lucky that I have Veronica in my life. She has helped me so much,” Eva said.
About Ascension Seton’s Women’s Oncology Care Navigation:
The goal of the Women’s Oncology Care Navigation DSRIP is to improve the health and quality of life of breast and gynecological cancer patients and survivors.
- Patient navigation, including referrals to services and community organizations
- Helping patients access medical services, tests and procedures
- Connecting patients with a primary care physician
- Helping patients manage side effects of their treatment
- Connecting patients with dietary, mental health counseling, health education, wellness and other support services.
- Women in Travis County who are being treated for gynecologic cancers at Shivers Cancer Center, or who are post-treatment survivors of breast or gynecologic cancers.
If you have a patient that you would like to refer for navigation services, please contact any of the individuals listed below:
- Chris Hamilton: email@example.com: project lead
- Sylvia Danko, RN: firstname.lastname@example.org: treatment navigation manager
- Jorge Escamilla: email@example.com: survivorship health promoter
- Maria Rios, RN: firstname.lastname@example.org: treatment navigator
- Veronica Serrano: RN, email@example.com – survivorship navigator
- Annabel Villela: firstname.lastname@example.org – treatment health promoter
- Demonstration Year 3 (Oct. 1, 2013 – Sept. 30, 2014): Enroll 125 patients in navigation program; establish baseline for use of the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy – General
- Demonstration Year 4 (Oct. 1, 2014 – Sept. 30, 2015): Enroll 150 patients in navigation program; 5% improvement in FACT-G score over baseline
- Demonstration Year 5 (Oct. 1, 2015 – Sept. 30, 2016): Enroll 175 patients in navigation program; 10% improvement in FACT-G score over baseline