In her role as a nurse navigator at Memorial Medical Center, Mindy Pearse, BSN, RN, has guided many women through their battles with breast cancer. It’s a battle Pearse knows well. She was diagnosed with breast cancer 12 years ago, when she was a 30-year-old mom of two.
In her role as a nurse navigator at Memorial Medical Center, Mindy Pearse, BSN, RN, has guided many women through their battles with breast cancer.
It’s a battle Pearse knows well. She was diagnosed with breast cancer 12 years ago, when she was a 30-year-old mom of two.
“I’ve been through it,” she said. “I know the fear, and I can relate to what patients are going through.”
Her diagnosis came after she discovered an unusual lump during a self-exam. She underwent a mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy and radiation. Two years later, with the risk of recurrence in mind, she opted to undergo a second mastectomy on the left side.
Because of the hormone-driven nature of her cancer, she took medication intended to shut down her ovaries. She was surprised, therefore, to find out she was pregnant with her third child. Despite her fears about how cancer treatments might affect her baby, her daughter was born healthy.
Although facing cancer as a mother was difficult, Pearse said she feels grateful that her children were too young at the time to understand the seriousness of her illness.
“It was horrible to be diagnosed at 30,” she said, “but I almost feel fortunate because my children don’t remember.”
Her journey from cancer survivor to nurse navigator began with a phone call from a friend. “She said, ‘I heard about this job and I think you should look into it,’” Pearse recalled.
Leaving her old job was a difficult decision since her co-workers supported her through her illness. But she felt called to use her experience to help others.
As a nurse navigator, Pearse provides support, education and guidance for breast cancer patients. It’s not always easy—especially when she has to call a patient and deliver the bad news of a cancer diagnosis. But the job also gives her the opportunity to encourage and empower patients.
“I want them to know they can do it,” she said.
In addition to following guidelines for regular mammograms, Pearse is a strong advocate for breast self-exams. Like most women who receive a breast cancer diagnosis, she had no family history of the disease, nor is she a carrier of the gene mutation that increases cancer risk.
It’s usual to have some “lumps and bumps,” Pearse said, but a self-exam can help women know what’s normal for them.
Her commitment to patient well-being also goes beyond the physical. During her bout with cancer, Pearse had a strong network of friends, family and co-workers to lean on. She tries to ensure the patients she counsels have the same opportunities.
“It’s hard to do something like this without a support system,” she said.
The work she does with patients helps her find purpose and meaning as a cancer survivor. After she accepted the nurse navigator position, her mother suggested that perhaps this was why she’d fought—and defeated—cancer at such a young age: so she could use that experience to help others on the journey.
Pearse agrees. “This is where I’m supposed to be,” she said.