When a man, woman, or child is diagnosed with cancer, his or her whole family is thrown into turmoil. Suddenly, the patient, parent or guardian needs to make decisions about treatments, deal with insurance and other financial demands, travel in unfamiliar surroundings, and confront the emotional, mental and spiritual consequences of a life-changing diagnosis.
And all too often, they have to do it almost alone.
That’s why City of Hope has launched the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center, a comprehensive program focusing on the non-medical needs of patients and their families.
“They have to deal with so much,” says patient navigator Heather Ducksworth. “It’s wonderful to be able to give them the personalized support they need.”
Natalie Schnaitmann, operations director of the Biller Resource Center,agrees.
“This is the culmination of City of Hope’s commitment to patient care,” she explains. “It brings together social workers, nutritionists, counselors, educators, spiritual advisors and experts in many other specialties, all to help patients and families deal with this very stressful time.
“It’s based on the recognition of patients as individuals, and that cancer impacts all areas of their life,” Schnaitmann says.
The cornerstone of the Biller Resource Center are “patient navigators” like Ducksworth. From simple needs like a map of the City of Hope campus, to complex concerns like fears of possible sexual disfunction following surgery, navigators help patients and families find the resources and help they need.
“Our goal is for the Biller Resource Center to be an oasis for patients and families,” Schnaitmann says, noting that every City of Hope patient has access to all the Biller Resource Center offers.
Right now, no other cancer center in America has a centralized patient-resource center like the Biller Center.
But rather than keep a good thing to ourselves, Schnaitmann says, Biller Resource Center staff plan to share their experience and findings with other hospitals and cancer centers.
“It’s the right time for this, and City of Hope is the right place to get it started. But all cancer patients deserve this and we want to help them get the resources and care they deserve.”