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Nurse navigators help breast cancer patients

October is breast cancer awareness month. (Sinclair image)

(WLUK) -- FOX 11 is working in partnership with out parent company, Sinclair Broadcast Group, to keep you informed about important health matters.

October is breast cancer awareness month.

One of the most frustrating things right after a diagnosis, is processing a flood of new information.

That's where nurse navigators come in.

It was like the life had been... just sucked out of me. nothing can prepare you for that," said Amanda Cornell.

It was the worst news of Amanda Cornell's life and it came with a mountain of questions, fear and anxiety.

She didn't know anything about breast cancer or what to do next.

The team at the Ruth J. Spear breast center at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Oregon told her to call "Julie."

"I just thought- oh gosh- one more person I have to talk to."

Julie Alridge is a nurse navigator. She guides people through the scary world of breast cancer.

"I always say that I think patients get a mini medical degree with this diagnosis and they're asked to make all these decisions which.. they have no history in making those types of decisions," said Julie Alridge.

The first nurse navigator program was launched in 1990.

They're now in hospitals around the country but not always available to every cancer patient.

There's a growing movement to change that by training more nurses and expanding the programs.

Amanda knows how critical a role they play.

She says Julie was like a life coach helping her take back control when it seemed impossible.

"When I found out I was going to lose my left breast- that was probably harder than anything and so I did go to Julie and she showed me pictures of patients who've gone through mastectomies and I thought 'oh- that doesn't look so bad," Cornell said.

"That's what I do what I do. is to really help patients kind of um - take them off the ceiling after this horrible diagnosis 24 and bring everything down and put it in a framework and they can move forward," Alridge said.

After a double mastectomy, chemo, and radiation, Amanda is cancer-free. She feels lucky.

She not only survived but came through it with a new friend who turned out to be a lifesaver.

"It's wonderful to .. just help somebody's day be easier ..really to ease their way in a really difficult time is amazing. i love it," Alridge said.

If you or a loved one is facing a cancer diagnosis, ask your oncology team about a nurse navigator.

You can also call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 to find out if there is a patient navigator program in your area.

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