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Gift expands Navigator program for Health Center cancer patients

by John Sponauer - April 14, 2008

Even 10 years on, Carolyn Deal remembers the way she felt when she was first diagnosed with cancer.

Deal, the president and COO of William Raveis Real Estate, Mortgage, & Insurance, says the diagnosis of cancer arouses strong emotions, often in overwhelming and unforeseen ways.

“When you’re first diagnosed, you only halfway hear the things people are telling you,” says Deal, who has coped with the disease for the past 10 years.

“You don’t even know what questions to ask. And you quickly find that the more you ask other people, or the more you look online, the more overwhelmed you get, because everyone’s cancer is different.”

That experience, and her company’s strong support of the Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center during the past four years, has led to a $750,000 pledge from the William Raveis Charitable Fund Inc. to expand the center’s existing Navigator Care Program.

The program pairs newly diagnosed patients with trained volunteers who assist them through the treatment process.

It is currently focused on breast cancer patients. Raveis’ support, in collaboration with the American Cancer Society, will allow for full-time Navigator staff on site, and will expand the program to serve patients with other cancers as well.

“We’ve seen how cancer affects our company,” says Lorraine Megenis, vice president of operations at Raveis.

“A very high percentage of our 1,900 sales associates are female. If they haven’t gone through cancer themselves, their sisters, mothers, or friends have. We feel the support given to patients through the Navigator program is a necessity.”

William Raveis, chairman and CEO, says, “We’ve always supported research and education, but this is something that is helping people here and now. The big picture is vital, but so is making sure that we assist individual patients and their families through our philanthropy.

“We’re excited to see where the Navigator program will go in the years to come, as it continues to expand and grow,” he adds.

Nancy Baccaro coordinates the existing Navigator program. She says the service can make a huge difference for patients at any stage of their journey through diagnosis, treatment, and care.

“When patients enter the health care system with a complicated condition like cancer, it’s overwhelming,” she says.

“But through the Navigator program, we have an opportunity to decrease that anxiety, guide and direct a patient, and, most importantly, give the patient knowledge. With knowledge comes power and control, in a situation where patients often feel powerless. The Navigator acts as an adjunct to the professional provider and serves as the eyes and the ears of the patient throughout the process.”

Dr. Carolyn Runowicz, director of the Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center, says Raveis’ support allows the Center to expand the scope of the Navigator program and help more patients.

“We’ve seen how useful it has been for patients with breast cancer,” she says, “and recognize the need to provide this service for all our patients. This program is a real resource for patients, and helps to empower them to become more active partners in their treatment and recovery.”

That support is something Deal believes would have been helpful in her case.

“When I learned about the Navigator program, I remember thinking how useful this would have been for me,” she says.

“To have someone take you through the process, represent you, educate you, help prepare you, and offer that support, that adds so much for the patient.”

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