JOPLIN, Mo. — A diagnosis of breast cancer can turn a patient’s world upside down. But there’s a very unique role at Freeman Health System designed to make sure they have the extra support they need throughout the process.

“When I first meet a breast cancer patient is when she has been first diagnosed after a biopsy. I just try to relate to them.”

“I don’t want them to feel lost through the process. And you know, just to let them know that, you know, their health care provider does care, and we do want to make sure they’re on the right track.”

Breast Cancer Navigator Marcella Sowell said that support often starts with the initial diagnosis and the impact on the patient.

“I have a range of emotions on how people handle that type of news. I have some ladies that can be very stoic. Some ladies that of course. What you would expect to know the tears and stuff usually doesn’t come until after the surgeon leaves and so I kind of get the brunt of that sometimes.”

Then there’s what comes next, often a tough path ahead for someone newly diagnosed with breast cancer.

“Because when a person is first diagnosed with any kind of ailment, immediately it kind of shuts them down. I mean, that’s all they’re thinking about. They think of the worst-case scenarios, and so they don’t quite hear everything that’s being told. And so I kind of helped fill in those gaps.”

Sowell adds the contact doesn’t stop there.

“I see them after they’ve seen the oncologist and that they have more concerns or questions there. I’ll see them postdoc after their surgeries. I see them after all treatment is done and they’re just following that doing their normal follow up yearly. So I try to keep in contact.”

And she says each case is unique, but some leave an indelible mark.

“I still keep in touch with the very first patient that I met. Yeah,” said Sowell.