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October is Breast Health Month

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Nurse Nurse Navigator program adds personal touch on the path to wellness

SARASOTA (Oct. 15, 2010) – Finding a lump in her breast and facing a possible breast cancer diagnosis was difficult enough for Rilla Fleming to comprehend. But when the uninsured artist and single mother of five reflected on the past year – a blur of medical tests, appointments, surgery and chemotherapy, she was amazed at how effortlessly her battle with cancer unfolded.

This August marks the one-year anniversary since Rilla learned she had invasive breast cancer ... and met Marie Borsellino, RN, a breast health navigator at Sarasota Memorial who would become a guiding force on Rilla’s path to wellness.

“Marie was more than just a medical nurse to me,” said Rilla, a slight tremor in her voice as she recalled the battery of tests and treatments necessary to eradicate the cancer. “I could tell right away she had a beautiful soul ... she was my guiding light ... and helped me and my family in more ways than I could possibly count. “

Nurse, Friend, Advocate
Part educator, part personal assistant and part friend, Sarasota Memorial’s Breast Health Navigators provide a unique level of care to women facing breast cancer. At no cost to the patient, the health system’s breast health navigators help women and their families cope with the initial stress of a cancer diagnosis and coordinate the often myriad of appointments, tests and treatments prescribed by their doctors.

As Rilla’s nurse navigator, Borsellino was prepared not only to provide clinical support and coordinate doctor visits, but she also was there to provide emotional support for her entire family, link her with community resources and ensure she received the specialized medical care she needed.

“It didn’t matter what the problem was ... whether it was big or small ... she was always there for me,” Rilla said. “When a door needed to be opened, it was opened.”

Sarasota Memorial’s Breast Health Navigators are oncology- and breast care-certified nurses, but their job goes far beyond telling people the side effects of treatment. In these tough economic times, Borsellino said she’s often found herself appealing to insurance providers, bankers and utility companies on behalf of patients having trouble keeping up with their bills. “I just wish more women knew we were here to help,” said Borsellino. “Dealing with cancer is stressful enough. They shouldn’t have to worry about anything but getting better.” Rilla said she can’t imagine how she would have made it through the year without Borsellino, who often met her before medical appointments and visited during chemotherapy treatments. During one such visit, Borsellino brought her a beautiful wig and scarves to ease the anxiety Rilla felt over losing some of her hair.

“Knowing Marie was there – and would always be there – just made everything easier,” Rilla said.

About Sarasota Memorial’s Breast Health Navigator Program
Anyone facing a possible breast cancer diagnosis, or diagnosed with a new or recurring cancer, is eligible for free and confidential services provided by Sarasota Memorial’s Breast Health Nurse Navigator. Sarasota Memorial’s Breast Health Navigators are oncology- and breast care-certified nurses specially trained to manage the clinical, educational and supportive needs of breast cancer patients, from the time of an abnormal mammogram or breast exam through advanced testing and treatment. For information, call (941) 917-3377.

About Sarasota Memorial Health Care System
Founded in 1925, Sarasota Memorial Health Care System is the second-largest acute care public health system in Florida, with about 4,000 employees and 750 physicians on staff. It is the only public and the only not-for-profit hospital in the surrounding four-county region. With an 806-bed acute care hospital and comprehensive network of outpatient services – pain care, rehabilitation, diagnostic imaging and laboratory, home health and a nursing home among its many services – Sarasota Memorial offers the region’s greatest breadth and depth of care and is consistently recognized among the nation’s best hospitals in quality and safety.

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