Breast Cancer Survivor Answers a Calling – to Care for Others Facing Cancer
Lawana Evans cares for people who are facing cancer every day. She is also a survivor herself.
“I have always prayed that God lead me where I needed to be. I do this job because I know what it’s like to be told you have cancer.”
Navigating the Waters
Lawana is a nurse navigator at Thompson Cancer Survival Center. Nurse navigators are paired with patients when they are diagnosed with cancer and follow them throughout treatment. Her responsibilities include attending major appointments, help make arrangements for next phase of treatment, and acting as a liaison between patient and provider and resource.
“Getting told you have cancer is very overwhelming,” Lawana says. “I think it is important to try to take as much stress and burden off the patient so they can cope with this and worry less about the logistics. My responsibilities are individualized for each patient’s particular needs. My favorite part of navigation is getting to know the patient and their families and them knowing that they at least have me if no one else.”
A Deeper Understanding
The young healthcare professional worked in oncology care when she was diagnosed with breast cancer herself at age 31. She says, “Before my diagnosis, I could see the physical issues that people were experiencing from a cancer diagnosis but did not truly understand what goes on inside….the fear, the anxiety, the sadness, and sometimes isolation. I now have a better understanding of what these patients are dealing with so I can be more helpful to them when providing resources, education, and support.”
Early Detection is Key
The key to breast health is early detection. Lawana Evans is a living example of this. “It is important to do monthly self-breast exams and mammograms as recommended,” she says. “If you notice anything concerning when doing your breast exam, notify your doctor immediately so proper screening can be performed.”
Genetic Testing Saved My Life
She also encourages women to find out about their family history.
“Certain genetic mutations can increase your risk of breast cancer and other types of cancer. For example, several members of my family had been diagnosed with breast and ovarian cancer. At the age of 31, I went for genetic testing due to my increased family history and a known genetic mutation, BRCA 1, in my family. It was then discovered that I also had the genetic mutation, BRCA 1. With this information, it was recommended that I begin receiving breast imaging. My first set of scans is when my breast cancer was detected.
I feel that genetic testing saved my life. I may not have noticed this area until it was further advanced because I had not yet reached the age to begin yearly mammograms. That being said, most breast cancers are not due to genetic mutations. Even if you have no family history of breast cancer, it is still important to perform do your self-breast exams and mammograms.”
Advice from a Survivor: “Attitude is Everything”
Lawana states, “Attitude is everything, and I am a firm believer that it makes a difference in your outcome of treatment. It is okay to cry and be angry, but the key is not letting it consume you. Grieve your diagnosis then put on your boxing gloves and fight it with a smile on your face.”
She also advocates for finding a support group, or sharing concerns and worries with loved ones. Most importantly, she says, “Do what you can to decrease the chance of recurrence: routine surveillance, keeping follow up appointments, plus regular exercise and diet to eliminate risk factors where possible. Trust that God knows the plan and leave your worries with him.”
It is her hope that because of her personal experience, she can anticipate the needs of her patients and provide whatever type of support they may require. “If I accomplish that, than I have done what I set out to do.”