Hearing a diagnosis of cancer is something that no one is ever prepared for, but after the initial shock, there comes the question "what's next?"
Cancer patients, families and supporters can find the answers by seeking out a patient navigator. Stan Haehl is based in Athens but works with patients in Washington and surrounding counties to help them find their way through the maze.
Question: What is the Patient Navigator Program?
Answer: The American Cancer Society Patient Navigator program is a service outreach of the American Cancer Society to cancer patients, particularly patients in medically under-served areas. ACS Patient Navigators offer information, support and resource referral for all sorts of issues that can come up during "the cancer journey," from diagnosis through treatment and into survivorship.
We help people by providing information about various types of cancer, about different treatment options, about programs and resources to support cancer patients and their families and caregivers. It is part of our job to know where people can turn for assistance from state programs, federal programs, and private foundations and groups.
Q: Who might use this program, and how is it funded?
Address: 23 Euclid St., Athens.
Family: Married; one son; two grandchildren and one on the way.
Education: Master of fine arts, directing theater.
Occupation: American Cancer Society patient navigator serving Athens, Vinton, Morgan, Noble, Monroe and Washington counties.
For more information about the American Cancer Society Patient Navigator Program:
Ohio: (888) 227-6446 or firstname.lastname@example.org
West Virginia: (800) 227-2345, ask for area office.
A: (The program) is for all cancer patients, their families and caregivers, and also for cancer survivors. The service is free and confidential. Of course, we deal with a lot of folks who are under- or completely uninsured, who have very limited resources. The program is specifically targeted to helping these under-served populations. But we will help any cancer patient.
The ACS Patient Navigator program is funded by the American Cancer Society Ohio Division from its local fundraising activities such as Relay For Life. Of course, a lot of the money raised goes to research at state or national levels - the ACS core mission - but a significant portion of locally raised funds are returned to the area in programs such as the Patient Navigator.
Q: What are some of the specific obstacles cancer patients and their families might face?
A: Transportation is a big issue in my area - getting to and from treatments when you have to travel to Columbus, to Cleveland or even from New Matamoras to Marietta five days a week for six, eight, 10 weeks.
Another specific issue can be the cost of medications. ACS patient navigators can help patients find and sign up for discount programs for many medications.
Traveling away from home for treatment can be an issue; who can afford hotels for weeks at a time? I can help patients connect to the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge housing facilities in Cleveland and Cincinnati.
The expense of treatment is always a major issue. I should mention that ACS does not pay for individuals' treatments or testing, but patient navigators help patients find their way in the maze of governmental and private aid.
Q: What has it meant personally for you to be involved in this program? How did you get involved?
A: I've been a teacher or worked in not-for-profit educational environments all my life, and when we decided to move back to Ohio to be near our grandchildren, I was looking for work that wasn't driven by the profit motive. When I saw the listing for this job, it struck me that it was somewhat like teaching and was absolutely good work.
And my life - like so many lives - has been touched by cancer. My father, my mother-in-law and a niece all died of cancer. It means a lot to me to be able to help, even when I can't do as much as I'd like. You can never do as much as you'd like.