Help­ing oth­ers nav­i­gate cancer


He was a teenage cancer pa­tient whose fam­ily thought he would make it.

But the long-time suf­ferer’s ag­gres­sive ill­ness proved in­cur­able and the 17-year-old died four weeks af­ter his fi­nal di­ag­no­sis.

For Wendy Hay­ward-Morey, sto­ries like these are sad, but part of her job. She has been a cancer ‘‘nav­i­ga­tor’’ at Te Whanau o Waipereira since 2006.

And the ser­vice pro­vided in part­ner­ship with Waitem­ata DHB was not just for the ter­mi­nally-ill.

Hay­ward-Morey and her col­league Anita Hakaraia worked with west Auck­land Maori, aged 16 years and over, who had been di­ag­nosed with cancer.

From tak­ing pa­tients to med­i­cal ap­point­ments, sort­ing out bud­gets, deal­ing with agen­cies like Child Youth and Fam­ily, Hous­ing New Zealand and Work and In­come – to help­ing pa­tients learn about self­care, the cancer nav­i­ga­tors do it all.

‘‘If you haven’t got sup­port from a nav­i­ga­tor you have to try and find your way through a sys­tem that is just a quag­mire,’’ said Hay­wardMorey.

She said the best part of her job was work­ing with the whole whanau to make the jour­ney eas­ier.

Hay­ward-Morey said the cancer nav­i­ga­tion pro­gramme be­gan nine years ago with a sin­gle ques­tion, ‘‘why do Maori not ac­cess avail­able pal­lia­tive care?’’.

As they worked to find the answers they found Maori needed sup­port through the ‘‘whole jour­ney’’ that be­gan from the time of di­ag­no­sis.

Hakaraia said it was the lit­tle things that made a dif­fer­ence to the pa­tients.

The most mean­ing­ful dis­cus­sions the nav­i­ga­tors had with the cancer suf­fer­ers were on the way to ap­point­ments.

But the so­cial worker, who had been in the role for four years, said work­ing with Maori had its chal­lenges.

It was not un­com­mon for them to put their whanau be­fore their own needs.

‘‘[It’s] I am not go­ing to my hos­pi­tal ap­point­ment, be­cause I want to take my daugh­ter to school or [I will] use this bus money for lunches for the chil­dren rather than pay for the bus to go to my treat­ment.’’

Hakaraia said things needed be work­ing well at home for pa­tients to ac­cess med­i­cal care.


Anita Hakaraia, front, and Wendy Hay­ward-Morey are cancer nav­i­ga­tion staff at Te Whanau o Waipereira.

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