Breast cancer survivor, volunteer promotes nurse navigators to help early diagnosed patients

Debbie Williams and nurse navigator Pam Kuhlmey work together to guide patients through their cancer journeys

SAN ANTONIO – A breast cancer survivor is advising cancer patients on how to utilize resources to navigate the complexities of treatment and therapy.

A cancer diagnosis can be among the most difficult moments in a person’s life, and navigating treatments and therapy can only add to that challenge.

“When you actually get the diagnosis, I can’t even describe what I felt. Overwhelmed. Shocked. I think you think the worst,” said Debbie Williams, a breast cancer survivor.

In 2011, Williams was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer. Two years later, she was medically declared in remission.

Once she regained her strength, Williams started a breast cancer support group at Methodist Hospital Metropolitan.

“I was just telling somebody today, you don’t realize how much that helps on the front end by getting those mammograms, and you don’t have to go through these severe treatments,” Williams said.

At the hospital, she works alongside nurse navigator Pam Kuhlmey, who helps more than 50 patients every month with doctor visits, treatment options and care coordination.

“Once you hear those words -- cancer -- oftentimes, [you] don’t hear anything else after that,” Kuhlmey said.

The two ladies work together to guide patients through their cancer journeys while helping minimize stress and confusion.

“When I talk to them, I try and find out what they’ve heard, what they’ve learned, and then reinforce that and then kind of fill in the blanks because there is a lot,” Kuhlmey explained.

The nurse navigator said in recent years, she and her staff have seen an increase in younger women diagnosed with breast cancer. She advises women as young as 18 to practice self-breast exams regularly.

Click here to view more Breast Cancer Awareness Month stories

About the Authors:

Adam Barraza is a photojournalist at KSAT 12 and an El Paso native. He interned at KVIA, the local ABC affiliate, while still in high school. He then moved to San Antonio and, after earning a degree from San Antonio College and the University of the Incarnate Word, started working in news. He’s also a diehard Dodgers fan and an avid sneakerhead.