Archived: Kaiser Permanente: Navigating Your Cancer Journey

When Portland-area real estate broker Kathy Allen closes a sale, she likes to give a gift to the new homeowners.

(Originally published on

“It’s important to treat everyone with a personal touch and find out who they really are, what they need, and what makes them tick,” says Kathy.

She even went shopping for a live goat for clients who moved into a farmhouse.

Kathy takes a lot of pride in the way she treats her clients, and she has equally high standards for the service she receives. Since undergoing treatment for breast cancer, she speaks of her entire Kaiser Permanente care team with gratitude. But her highest words of praise go to her nurse navigators, Rhonda Wirth and Debbie Larson.Supportive guides for a challenging journey

Rhonda navigated Kathy’s unique journey — from diagnosis, to surgery, to recovery.

Nurse navigators serve as primary contacts for the patient through every step of their care, sharing their direct phone numbers and returning calls promptly. They use their skills and knowledge to offer patients special insight on their diagnosis and upcoming treatment journey.

Besides Rhonda and Debbie, who specialize in breast cancer, other nurse navigators specialize in head and neck cancers, colorectal cancers, urological and prostate cancers, and skin cancers.

A powerful connection

Today, Kathy’s truly grateful that Rhonda was able to navigate her care. Thanks to her guidance and support, she was able to take a long-planned trip to visit friends and family in Arizona.

“Rhonda made a point to find out who I am, what I need, and what makes me tick. She realized how important the trip is to me,” says Kathy.

Since they provide constant support through cancer recovery, it’s not uncommon for patients to develop a special bond with their nurse navigators. These special providers often receive thank-you cards and letters, plus “hugs that go on forever.” One patient, a professional musician, expressed his gratitude by naming his guitar after his nurse navigator.

While nurse navigators deal with many patients over the course of their careers, they leave an impact on each one that lasts a lifetime.

Learn more about cancer care at Kaiser Permanente at

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