Support of family, friends, and a certified cancer navigator makes world of difference to
young mom.

A cancer diagnosis is perhaps one of life’s most difficult pieces of news to receive. While survival rates are improving for many forms of the disease, cancer is still a serious illness that may consume a person’s physical, emotional, mental and spiritual, as well as financial, attention for quite some time. The overall healthcare journey may be changed forever and it can be difficult to know just where to start or what
to do next.

The Mayo Clinic recommends patients find someone to talk with about their hopes and fears as one coping tactic. It could be a friend or family member, clergy, counselor, medical social worker or cancer support group. Parrish Medical Center’s cancer program includes Brevard County’s only certified Breast Cancer Navigator – and the service is free.

A Parrish cancer navigator is a certified oncology registered nurse who is not only knowledgeable about the disease, but will help navigate patients through the integrated healthcare system in their cancer care. Parrish navigators are oncology-certified nurses and chemotherapy-certified by the Oncology Nursing Society. Parrish also has a certified breast patient navigator, who is certified through the National Consortium of Breast Centers.

A Survivor’s Story

Samantha Fender was just 29 years old and expecting her second child when she noticed unusual changes in her breasts. Thinking it was nothing more than the pregnancy, she nevertheless talked with her doctor about it at her next regular visit.

The tests revealed an awful truth. Samantha had an aggressive form of breast cancer. She recalls her mind racing with thoughts of what this could mean for her toddler daughter, husband Paul and their unborn child. To be carrying a new life with a disease that could take her life from them seemed impossible.

“When the doctor told us the lump in her breast was cancerous, I felt my heart drop,” remembers Paul. “Sam was young. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.”

With overwhelming concern for her family, Samantha was determined to meet cancer head-on and literally began the fight of her life. Shortly after giving birth she began the difficult treatment of a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation.

The support of family and friends carried her through the most frightening times and allowed her to focus on getting better. “Not only did they care for me, they took care of my children when I couldn’t,” she said. “It meant the world to me.”

During her treatment, Samantha also had the support of Parrish Cancer Center’s nationally certified breast cancer navigators, oncology nurses Marsha Richardson and Shannon Luker. They provided education, offered encouragement and answered questions.

After Samantha’s husband, Paul, shaved Samantha’s head at home, where they could laugh and cry together, Richardson and Luker fitted Samantha with a wig from Parrish Medical Center’s Cancer Boutique.

Samantha and Paul found solace in their shared faith to get through the tough times. “We were never sure what the day may bring,” Paul said. “We took them one at a time and just kept swimming, as Sam likes to say.” 

Happily, Samantha is cancer-free today. Samantha says the experience made her a better person–more empathetic. She spends time helping others by making gift bags for newly diagnosed breast cancer patients filled with comfort items for patients going
through chemotherapy. Paul says cancer truly changed their perspective. “It made us realize what is really important in life.”

The Navigator

Shannon Luker is one of Parrish Cancer Center’s nationally certified breast cancer navigators.

She knows that being diagnosed with cancer is a devastating time for the patient and their loved ones. She knows there will be questions about getting the care needed.

“Breast cancer is a life changing experience,” Luker says. “I’m here to guide patients through the healthcare system and make sure they have everything they need so they can
focus on healing.”

Working Together For You

As a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, Parrish  physicians have access to Mayo Clinic’s unsurpassed research and expertise. The advantages to patients and families of Parrish’s collaboration with Mayo Clinic include:

DIAGNOSIS: Parrish Cancer Center physicians have access to Mayo Clinic’s disease management protocols, clinical-care guidelines and reference materials, as well as eConsults for diagnosis and treatment.

RESEARCH, EXPERIENCE AND SPECIALISTS: Mayo Clinic is the No. 1 ranked hospital in the U.S. (based on U.S. News & World Report 2016 – “17 Best Hospitals Honor Roll”).

PATIENT-CENTERED CARE: Care is respectful of, and responsive to, individual patient preferences, needs and values, and ensures that patients and their family guide all clinical decisions.

MODERN AMENITIES AND A HEALING ENVIRONMENT: Parrish Cancer Center’s network of experts provides the services and technology expected from a world-class
cancer center.

PARRISH CANCER CENTER is a Commission on Cancer-accredited program.

PARRISH CANCER CENTER has two nationally certified breast cancer navigators. They are the only two nationally certified navigators in Brevard County, among 43 in the state of Florida.

TOP-RANKED U.S. HOSPITAL: PMC has been cited as Florida’s safest hospital by Consumer Reports. It has also earned top safety ratings from The LeapFrog Group, The SafeCare Group, The Joint Commission and other healthcare rating agencies.

The Parrish Cancer Center  845 Century Medical Drive in Titusville. For more information, or to schedule an appointment
call 321-529-6202 or visit