Ascension Sacred Heart Breast Care Nurse Navigator Stephanie Kemp wears many hats as she guides patients through their breast cancer diagnosis, treatment, and recovery: she’s an educator, cheerleader, social worker, counselor and advocate. And just like the patients she interacts with daily, she’s also a breast cancer survivor.
“I don’t share my breast cancer journey with all my patients because it is their story,” Kemp explained. “But there are times when I sense a patient needs to hear my testimony and I ask permission to share it with them.”
“I want them to know that they will get through this, and I will be there every step.”
Kemp wished she had the guidance of a breast care nurse navigator when she received her diagnosis five years ago. With a strong family history of breast cancer, Kemp was vigilant about performing breast self-exams and getting yearly mammograms starting in her 20s. Even so, she experienced an emotional rollercoaster after detecting a lump in her breast.
“My whole world came to a stop,” she recalled. “I was in denial and put off getting the lump checked out for almost a year.”
Kemp said her husband’s persistence saved her life. “I knew it was serious when the technician was silent during the 45-minute exam.”
After a biopsy, Kemp was diagnosed with invasive lobular breast cancer, which begins in the breast's milk-producing glands (lobules). Kemp had surgery to have all the breast tissue under her nipple and areola removed in 2018. Three years later, she found a pea-sized lump that wasn’t there the month before. She didn’t delay care this time and had surgery to remove the abnormal tissue.
Kemp became a breast care nurse navigator by happenstance. She wasn’t looking for a job change when she stepped into the elevator with a manager of Ascension Sacred Heart Cancer Center two years ago.
“I loved working as a neurosurgery nurse, but I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to advocate for people in our community. When she asked me to become the breast care nurse navigator, I said ‘absolutely’ without hesitation.”
Kemp knew she found her calling that fateful day in the elevator.
“It’s been so rewarding to guide women, and men, down this path, making sure they have every tool they need to be successful in recovering,” she said. “I feel like my diagnosis has a meaning.”
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