By Karen Oslund

Last Friday I drove to Gualala from Ukiah, over the Mountain View Road. My past experience with Mountain View Road told me that I needed a plan. 1. Start with a full tank of gas. 2. Make sure there is both water and food in the car. 3. Bring comfortable shoes and a raincoat in case of need to walk out. 4. Add 30 minutes to estimated drive time.

It might sound silly (unless you have driven Mountain View Road lately) but having this little plan in place and then implementing it put my mind at rest. At no point during the drive did I worry that if I had a flat or got stuck at a slide, I would be thirsty, hungry, or unable to hike out in my dress shoes.

When cancer patients first make contact with the Cancer Resource Centers, there is a lot of planning to do, and this is our specialty. Often, people are overwhelmed by the news that they have cancer and worries are swirling in their mind. We start right there. What are your biggest concerns right now? What do you need to know?

We help people make a list of questions to give to their oncologist, then go with them to audio record and take notes. We help them sort their issues into groups: some people need help understanding their insurance; some people need to know about options for help with treatment-related costs such as co-pays; some want advice on how to tell their family and friends. Breaking the complexity down into smaller parts and sorting it into a plan helps most people feel more in control.

The Cancer Resource Centers’ process of helping people create a plan early in their diagnosis is called CPRS, which stands for Consultation Planning, Recording, and Summarizing. The CPRS method was refined right here in Mendocino County through community-based research that CRC conducted with UCSF under the leadership of Executive Director Emeritus Sara O’Donnell, Dr. Jeff Belkora, and others. One of the findings of the research was that having a plan increased patient confidence, reduced anxiety, and helped cancer patients feel more in control of their care.

Patient navigators at CRC specialize in helping people with cancer sort out the complexity that comes with having cancer and making a plan. There are many resources in our community to help, and knowing what those resources are is an important part of what we do. Our method of question-listing is useful when confronted by cancer or any other disease, or for life decisions, or even, which is the best car to buy?

Cancer never comes along when anyone’s life is perfectly arranged and ready, because the truth is, no one’s life is ever perfectly arranged. With news of a cancer diagnosis comes natural fear and concern about the future. Putting those concerns on paper and sorting them out with the help of someone knowledgeable about local and national resources, is a good first step.

Happily, my drive over Mountain View Road was completely without incident. But having comfortable walking shoes, raingear, water and a snack in the car is never a bad idea.

The Cancer Resource Centers’ 2019 Cancer Awareness and Prevention series is sponsored by CRC in collaboration with the Mendocino County Health and Human Services Agency. This information is presented for educational purposes and is not intended to replace the advice of your health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your health care provider.  The Cancer Resource Centers of Mendocino County is a grassroots organization serving our communities since 1995 by providing information, advocacy, and support services free of charge.