Not a Derailment for Life Goals

Lillie Shockney shares her most important role as a navigator is to find out the patient's life goals. Lillie reflects on a patient's story of gratitude for allowing her to still pursue her goals and not let her diagnosis be a derailment.
Video Library – February 25, 2015
Lillie D. Shockney, RN, BS, MAS, HON-ONN-CG
Co-Founder, Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators® (AONN+)
Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Oncology Navigation & Survivorship®
University Distinguished Service Professor of Breast Cancer
Professor of Surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Co-Developer, Work Stride: Managing Cancer at Work
Johns Hopkins Healthcare Solutions
Breast cancer survivor


One of the most important things that I can do when do when I'm taking care of a patient is find out what their life goals are, because I want to keep them on track for those life goals. There's a tendency often times for us to be treating the pathology, and that the patient is all about her pathology when she has a life.

She has a family. She has a career. She has what she hopes to be a future after this diagnoses and treatment is completed. I consider myself to be a key person for her in educating the rest of the multi‑disciplinary oncology team so that they know more about this individual, that she's 34, that she's a newlywed, that they're hoping to start a family next year, that she's studying to be a concert pianist.

Just in saying that much about her, the team, then, is going to know when I say, "Please keep drugs away from her that will cause peripheral neuropathy, or we will destroy her career, and please let's get her into fertility preservation before we even put a port in her to be giving her chemotherapy."

These patients come back to me at the end of their treatment and put their arms around me whereas we started off with my arms around them. They say, "Thank you for keeping me on track for my life goals, and I've even decided to add a few more goals as a result of this being a life‑altering experience. I can look back and say this was a bump in the road, not a derailment and not a dead‑end, for my life goals."

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Last modified: October 5, 2017

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