Some days she's a social worker. On others, a financial- aid adviser.
At times she's an impromptu cosmetologist, or maybe a librarian.
And often, Christine Herman is just someone to yell at who won't yell back, or a woman equipped to pass the Kleenex when the tears come.
Only one thing truly ties together the assortment of tasks that make up her workdays: cancer.
Herman was hired in September by the American Cancer Society to serve as a patient navigator for southern Colorado. As the job title suggests, her role is to help people and their families find their way through the assortment of issues - from the emotional to the practical - that come after a cancer diagnosis. She's served about 100 patients so far.She points patients to support groups and programs offered by the American Cancer Society or other organizations. that could help.
She pulls up literature on specific kinds of cancer, sometimes in foreign languages for non-English speakers. She guides people to financial assistance, such as one program that provides gas cards for people who need help traveling to out-of-town appointments.
Herman spent Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve bringing wigs to women at Memorial Hospital's chemotherapy infusion center, and she runs a wig salon down the hall from her office at the Memorial Cancer Center.
Recently, she found herself hunting for a comfortable recliner or bed at the request of a woman whose husband was dying of cancer and was having trouble resting.
Sometimes she just listens as people process the news or talk about how it has affected their lives, or she fields an angry phone call from someone under stress.
"They are really, truly like deer in the headlights," she said about people who are first diagnosed. "All you can hear inside of you is, ‘I've got cancer.' Their life will never be the same."
Herman, who has a background in health education, is paid through a three-year grant from the American Cancer Society.
Although she's based at Memorial, she's tasked with serving any cancer patient in need, including those at Penrose-St. Francis Health Services, the Rocky Mountain Cancer Center, or other hospitals in southern Colorado.
She is among more than 100 patient navigators employed by the American Cancer Society nationally to help cancer patients with their non-medical care. The program started in 2005.
Yolanda Figueroa, 37, of Colorado Springs, is undergoing chemotherapy at Memorial for Stage 2 breast cancer diagnosed on Sept. 29.
Herman helped her find the society's Look Good ... Feel Better program, which provides free make-up and tips on restoring one's appearance after chemo causes eyelashes, eyebrows and hair to fall out.
"Women - we worry about our weight, hair and how we're going to look," Figueroa said. "That's very important to us."
Herman also provided Figueroa's husband with literature in Spanish, since he doesn't speak English.
Herman relishes her role as a friend and resource to people whose lives have been upended.
But her real wish, typed on a strip of paper taped to her computer, would put her out of work: "Dear God. I pray for the cure of cancer. Amen."
Contact the writer: 636-0198 or email@example.com
• To reach Christine Herman, call 365-9756 or send an e-mail to Christine.Herman@cancer.org.
• For resources about cancer and related issues, go to the American Cancer Society's Web site, www.cancer.org or 1-800-ACS-2345.
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