Paying It Forward: Dr. Harold P. Freeman And The Patient Navigation Program©

By Rene Syler

Editor’s Note: Rene Syler’s contributions to cancer survivorship have been featured on This blog post first appeared on Rene’s daily blog at Good Enough Mother®

February is Black History Month so in conjunction with Coca-Cola, I want to tell you about someone who is making a real difference in the health and lives of others by paying it forward.

Before I tell you about Dr. Harold P. Freeman, I want to share a story with you. Many of you know I’m the daughter of not one, but two breast cancer survivors. My mom was diagnosed post-menopause at 64; she was one of the more than 200,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer in this country each year. My father was also diagnosed with breast cancer; he was one of the nearly 2,000 cases that turn up in men every year.

About seven years ago, I started having some real problems of my own. My mammograms were showing suspicious white flecks on them, called micro-calcifications. Those were an indication that, though not cancer, I had a condition called Hyperplasia Atypia, thought of as a pre-cancer in some circles.

I was having to see my doctor at Memorial Sloan-Kettering about every six months or so, and the visits were fairly predictable. Except for one.

As I was waiting for my big, black car to come (this was back when I was working at CBS and I had a big, black car), I overheard a Hispanic mother and daughter talking about the mother’s recent breast cancer diagnosis. They had been trying, unsuccessfully, to get a cab to take them uptown when the aforementioned big, black car pulled up. It was an SUV and given the fact that the mother was physically and mentally weary, I offered to take them home.

During the ride I learned that not only was English their second language; neither woman wasn’t fluent in cancer-speak either. The mother and daughter were about to be swept into the maelstrom that is this disease.

It’s people like that mother who benefit from Harold P. Freeman and his work at the Patient Navigation Institute. The Harold P. Freeman Patient Navigation Institute works by breaking through the barriers between a diagnosis of breast cancer and the treatment of the disease. Barriers include anything from financial (for those patients who are uninsured or under insured), childcare, trust issues, and like the mother I met, language barriers.

I did what I could that day and though it was not much, I was able to help one woman on one day in the midst of her treatment; Dr. Freeman and the folks at the Patient Navigation Institute are doing that on a much larger scale.

Dr. Freeman and the work he and so many others do with the Patient Navigation Program inspires us to continue doing whatever we can do to draw attention to breast cancer education and treatment. Though on a much smaller scale, here at Good Enough Mother® we did just that, telling the stories of breast cancer survivors each October with our Survivor Stories. In fact, one of the women we featured, Dee Dee Ricks, was so inspired by Dr. Freeman, she’s made it part of her breast cancer journey to help others through the PNI.

Dr. Freeman is making a difference, showing us that one person with a vision can have an enormous impact for good.

Because a great mentor can make all the difference, Coca-Cola has teamed up with Magic Johnson, Common and Debra Lee of BET Networks to give four young people the apprenticeship experience of a lifetime. Visit to nominate an aspiring youth and help pay it forward to the next generation. You’ll also be automatically entered for a chance to win $5,000 for each nomination you make (up to five nominations per person).

Disclosure: Compensation was provided to Good Enough Mother by Coca-Cola via Glam Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Coca-Cola.

Category: Cancer

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,