Who: Carolyn Kline, 59, a patient with breast cancer who lives in Gettysburg; and Toni Fitzgerald, Carolyn’s breast cancer navigator.
What: When Carolyn was diagnosed with breast cancer this June, the news hit her hard. The native New Yorker is a transplant to Gettysburg who lives alone, doesn’t drive, and does not have family members or friends in the area who can help her. The normally spunky, straight-talking Carolyn – who says, “I usually land on my feet” – felt lost.
In fact, Carolyn was so overwhelmed, she didn’t show up for her first chemo session. Toni immediately reached out, made sure she was safe, encouraged her, told her she had her support, and has continued to be a steady, compassionate presence. True to her title, Toni helps Carolyn “navigate” the sometimes challenging path of cancer treatment: arranging transit rides for her appointments, calling her about test results, and helping her figure out medications.
Here's just one example of what Toni has done. Carolyn’s oncologist put her on a medication to regulate her fluid levels, asking her to take her blood pressure and weigh herself as a check on how she was doing. Two challenges: Carolyn did not have a scale or a blood pressure cuff in her house. Toni went to the store and bought both items, teaching Carolyn how to use the cuff.
Words to live by: “When I had my first appointment at the cancer center, Toni introduced herself and she was very nice but I was kind of skeptical,” Carolyn says. “When I get pushed into a corner, my ‘New York’ comes out and I can be like, ‘Back off.’ I got scared in the beginning about everything and actually thought I would rather just die. But I talked to Toni and she said, ‘We care about you.’ After that, I just thought, ‘Well, I have cancer and I need to do what I need to do.’
“Toni loves helping people. I would be lost without Toni. I don’t know what I would have done about all of this.”
“Now when I go to chemo,” Carolyn notes, “I know other people I have met there. I’m comfortable. I don’t think about the cancer. I go there and take a nap. I’m so relaxed. Everyone is wonderful.”
Toni says she enjoys giving her patients “extra TLC. We try to really be there for them.”
She says she enjoys Carolyn’s sense of humor and the sass she sometimes brings to their relationship.
“As time went on, she realized I was going to be there for her. I want to be,” she says. “I love my role and being there for the patients.”
If you have breast cancer, you also have us. Find out more about our comprehensive compassionate services, from surgery to breast cancer navigator support, here.