Navigator serves breast cancer patients

Posted Sept. 13, 2011, at 8:44 p.m.

BELFAST — Getting a diagnosis of breast cancer is frightening enough. Add to that all the options for treatment there are now and the situation can become overwhelming for many people.

At Waldo County General Hospital, anyone with a diagnosis of breast cancer and their family members can get help navigating through the maze of health care options.

Kim Lenfestey of Warren, who received a master’s degree in social work from the University of Maine in May, but took her courses at the Hutchinson Center, has been hired as the hospital’s first Breast Cancer Navigator. She started the job June 20.

Lenfestey previously worked as a case manager for families who had been reported for abuse or neglect of their children and also in a crisis stabilization unit designed to keep children out of mental health hospitals. “I have lots of experience working with families

in different situations and meeting with all kinds of people,” she said. “I was trying to find my niche.”

While studying for her master’s degree, she did an internship at MaineGeneral Hospital and it helped her find that niche. She worked in the oncology unit at the hospital and fell in love

with working with the patients there.

“I love working with patients. It’s a different kind of work than case management. Patients are often sad, overwhelmed and fearful, and they don’t understand why this happened to them. I love developing a warm relationship that is more personal and being able to help support people at their point of need,” Lenfestey said.

And her help isn’t just when a newly diagnosed individual is trying to decide what treatment option to pursue, it continues through treatment and survivorship. “I like the longevity that brings,” Lenfestey said.

Lenfestey’s involvement starts in the radiology department when a diagnostic mammogram or biopsy is called for if the patient wants her there. If the mass is cancer, Kim is there when the pathology results are given to the patient. She said it’s helpful because once a patient hears the words “breast cancer,” she often doesn’t remember anything else that was said afterward.

For patients who want her help, she sets up an appointment with a surgeon and usually attends. A date is set for the surgery and the surgeon gives a recommendation for whether radiation or chemotherapy should follow. Kim sets up the consultation with a doctor for either chemo, which can be done at Waldo County, or for radiation, which most often involves a trip to Bangor or Augusta.

“My job is to help patients figure out how to deal with any barriers to getting the treatment they need. That could be making appointments or referrals, getting the patient transportation to appointments, helping with insurance forms, finding financial resources or even looking for child care,” Lenfestey said.

She is also available to answer or research the answers to questions a breast cancer patient has. They can range from fertility issues for a younger patient to dealing with the fear that the cancer can come back to learning how to deal with the void when the fight against cancer is over.

This winter, Lenfestey will take training so she can form a breast cancer support group and will go out into the community to raise awareness about breast cancer.

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