Breast cancer survivors IU Health North partner to help heal patients

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From left, breast cancer survivors Jill Dodson, Barbara Savader and Charlotte Howard work together to help patients battle the disease at IU Health North. (Submitted photo)

By Desiree Williams

Dr. Barbara Savader, Jill Dodson and Charlotte Howard have been working together at IU Health North for nearly 10 years. Not only have they become friends, but they also have become a team of 10-plus year breast cancer survivors collaborating to help current patients through the process.

“I tell our patients every time I meet a new patient that this is a club no one wants to join, but once you’re in it, you want to help people through it, and we’re lucky enough that that gets to be our job,” said Dodson, oncology social worker.

Dodson, an Indianapolis resident, has been with IU Health for 24 years but joined IU Health North in Carmel in 2008 after a job opportunity opened while she was receiving cancer treatment there. Savader, a radiologist, and Howard, a breast health coordinator and nurse navigator, have both been at IU Health North since it opened.

Howard, who lives in Carmel, was one of Savader’s patients, and after breast cancer treatment, she transferred from surgical services to the breast clinic about five and a half years ago. As nurse navigator, Howard’s job is to walk patients through the diagnostic process from the first appointment and act as a support system.

“With people who are going through it, I think you feel often times like you’re the only one in this situation, and a lot of times I can just say ‘I had breast cancer 10 years ago. I know what you’re going through now, but it’s going to get better,’” Howard said.

Howard and Savader work hand-in-hand every day. After a patient has been diagnosed, they are sent to the breast clinic to meet surgeons, another nurse navigator and Dodson. Dodson’s job is to meet every cancer patient and provide community resources.

Dodson organizes a wellness series with events every Tuesday of the month. The first is yoga. Next, there is a cooking class followed by Reiki and Healing Touch. The last week offers a variety of speakers and activities.

“It’s a privilege to work with (Dodson and Howard). Our whole program is a real multidisciplinary effort, and I think our patients really feel that because we have excellent continuity between our specialties, and I think the patients feel really well taken care of,” said Savader, a Carmel resident.

IU Health North also provides a free skin care treatment kit to patients in radiation. The kit includes the ingredients and instructions for a green tea mixture that protects skin from burns and peeling.

During the month of October, patients who schedule a screening mammogram will receive a pink scarf. After any regular screening mammogram, patients are also offered a free cancer risk screening that uses family and personal health histories to determine if they are at average or high risk of cancer. To schedule, call 317-688-2955.

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