Bobbie’s Story

Care Beyond Cancer: Going the Distance

An 80-mile commute for cancer treatment made no difference to Bobbie Cather.

Diagnosed with breast cancer involving her lymph nodes, the Youngstown resident asked her family physician for a referral to University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center, which saved her life and helped in ways she could not have imagined.

“I wanted the very best treatment and care that was possible, and it being 80 miles from home made no difference,” Bobbie wrote in a letter to Nathan Levitan, MD, President of UH Seidman Cancer Center, a year ago this week.

The true difference came from Paula Silverman, MD, Director of the Breast Cancer Program at UH Seidman Cancer Center. Dr. Silverman offered Bobbie a clinical trial that could benefit herself and future patients, if successful.

Bobbie welcomed the opportunity, but it came with a catch. Once Cather joined the clinical trial, her insurance company began rejecting claims for all treatment. As her medical bills mounted, University Hospitals social worker Eileen Matteo, LISW, who sees outpatient breast cancer patients, worked on appeals.

“Eileen kept telling me to let her do the worrying and for me to concentrate on healing,” Bobbie wrote. “She was like an angel sent to us.”

Social workers are a vital part of the team approach to cancer care at UH Seidman Cancer Center. Besides the tangible services, the social workers can connect patients with an array of supportive services like counseling, support groups and referrals to community resources that patients may not be aware of or realize they could benefit from during treatment.

“Whether it means helping a patient get to treatment, pay for treatment or keep the electricity on during treatment, we consider all types of distress that a patient experiences when diagnosed with cancer,” Matteo says. “Our focus is to advocate, to educate and to empower.”

Ultimately, Matteo, with Dr. Silverman’s support, won Bobbie’s appeal.

“University Hospitals was there for me when I needed them,” Bobbie wrote. “We appreciate the treatment and such personal care we received at University Hospitals.”

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