Advocate Medical Group
Advocate Medical Group is a physician-led medical group providing primary care, specialty services, medical imaging, outpatient services and community-based medical practices throughout the Chicago area and Bloomington/Normal. One of the largest providers in the Midwest, AMG has more than 350 locations in the Chicago area and Central Illinois, offering 24/7 online scheduling.
Angel or nurse?
A diagnosis of breast cancer can leave a patient with so many questions. The role of the breast health nurse navigator is to help women navigate the health care system and connect them with appropriate services and resources along their journey.
As a breast health nurse navigator at Advocate Medical Group West Highland, Karen Leyland, BA, RN, CN-BN, persistently guides patients through breast cancer treatment. “I help these people through whatever problems come up as they try to return normal life,” she said.
One case in particular left a lasting impact on Leyland and the family she helped.
Diagnosed in August, a 50-year-old patient had just undergone a lumpectomy. After returning home, the woman, a schoolteacher and single mother of a 24-year-old profoundly disabled daughter, was accidently struck in her surgical site by her daughter, whose arms flail involuntarily.
Internal bleeding landed the patient back at the clinic a week later. “I can’t imagine the pain woman had to go through,” Leyland said. “She was injured trying to help her daughter, and it lead to a massive post-op complication. I know I needed to help this woman, and that mean helping with her daughter as well.”
Leyland hoped the mother could get relief from her caregiving duties long enough to heal and continue treatment. She realized the daughter needed to be placed in a safe environment, and went about looking for help. At first, no luck. She ran into ‘no’ after ‘no’.
After a painfully long string of calls and letters “haranguing” state officials, she finally got some caregiving assistance. It came in the form of a housing petition to state Rep. Robert Pritchard. “We had a wonderful home where the daughter could live, just two blocks from her mother’s house,” Leyland said.
The mother, out of work since surgery and living on savings, has undergone six cycles of chemotherapy and was about to begin radiation, which will require driving 1½ hours each way for treatment five days a week. “There is rarely a bright spot in a diagnosis of cancer,” the mom said, “but in my case the bright spot was an angel, Karen Leyland. She went above and beyond what anyone could expect from a nurse. I have only one question: Where does she keep her wings?”
It’s been a long road for both patient and navigator.
Leyland doesn’t see her herself as heroic. In fact, she is in awe of the mother: “She has my admiration. She has managed to work and be a caregiver for her daughter for 24 years.”