Navigating Cancer

There’s a Mat Kearney song that my husband and I talk about a lot. It’s called “Closer to Love,” and the lyrics go like this:

“She got the call today
One out of the grey
And when the smoke cleared
It took her breath away
She said she didn’t believe
It could happen to me
I guess we’re all one phone call from our knees”

I imagine that a cancer diagnosis feels a little like the feeling described here. My good friend lost a 26-year-old son to cancer a few years ago. And though she had worked as a nurse for many years, she still had trouble navigating the system.

I am happy to read about Peggy Belanger. She started work as a patient navigator at Southern Maine Health Care in 2003. She was the first person to hold that title at SMHC, and over the last 15 years, she has been a support and guide for cancer patients and their families. Patient navigators like Belanger help patients understand their options and choices when trying to manage their cancer diagnosis and treatments. Belanger spoke to us about how one of her patients described her life after she got her diagnosis: “She used the analogy that one day she woke up, had been put on a plane without her permission and dropped off in a foreign country. She had no idea where she was, what she was supposed to do, who to talk to and how to speak the language. She said it felt like a nightmare.” Read more about Belanger and the nurse oncology patient navigator program on page 31.

In just a few weeks, more than 1,200 women will gather in South Portland for the 11th annual Tri for a Cure. Each participant is required to raise a minimum of $500, and 100 percent of the money raised by participants goes into programming run by the Maine Cancer Foundation. In the first 10 years of the race, more than 10,000 participants raised just shy of $12 million. Last year’s race alone raised over $2 million, far surpassing its fundraising target. You can find more details on the Tri on page 24.

Originally, Meret Bainbridge planned to participate in the Tri in honor of a friend. She always enjoyed swimming, though not necessarily in the cold Maine waters, so she got herself a wetsuit. Bainbridge put off training for the Tri, and soon found herself navigating a cancer diagnosis and treatment for herself. She says, “One of my first thoughts was, after I am through this, I will do Tri for a Cure, and I will swim in the survivors’ wave.” Last year she did just that. Read more on page 16.

Susan Maataoui, the volunteer coordinator for the Tri, has been involved for 10 years. She is a woman who has been “giving back” for a long time. We need to do these kinds of important things in our communities,’ she says. “That’s a value I grew up with. My parents were very active in their communities and valued volunteerism and modeled that. I got the message that if you are fortunate enough to have resources, you have an obligation to share those resources with people who don’t.” Maataoui’s dedication to her community has had a big impact. “Susan is the person behind the scenes making all 500 volunteers come together. We could not do it without her,” says Julie Marchese, founder of the Tri. Read more on page 34.

Thanks for reading Maine Women Magazine. Stay in touch with us on social media, and come on out to the Tri this year to cheer for all of the remarkable women who participate.

Lee Hews

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