Nurse navigators make a difference for our patients because of you

Nurse navigators support cancer patients and their caregivers through every stage of their journey, starting after a diagnosis. They answer questions, translate the doctor’s instructions and serve as their advocate before, during and after treatment.

“I tell patients, I’m here to coordinate care, be your advocate and go-to gal when you really don’t know where to go. I want to make sure you never feel alone,” said Meredith Smith, a head and neck cancer nurse navigator at the Novant Health Derick L. Davis Cancer Center. 

Doug Owen and his wife, Robin Owen, know firsthand the impact of her work. Owen was diagnosed with parotid gland cancer in May 2019. After surgery to remove 44 lymph nodes, he started chemotherapy and radiation. Doug finished his treatment in September 2019 and received an all-clear scan in December.

Meredith was integral in helping them navigate their journey.

“It was really overwhelming at first. Meredith was there for us,” Robin said. “Anytime I had a question about his treatment, I knew I could call her. Without her, I don’t see how anyone could survive it. You don’t know where to go, who to call, how to coordinate care.”

Navigators also often know the best treatments for the patient’s individual circumstances. Doug hates needles, so Meredith encouraged him to get a port-a-cath in his shoulder. A port-a-cath allows fluids, blood transfusions and chemotherapy to be administered through a central vein, so Doug was able to receive treatment without constantly being stuck with a needle. Meredith also knew Doug liked to fish, so she asked the doctor to put the port-a-cath in his left shoulder, since he casts with his right arm.

“She walked through this with us, was there every day, never complained,” Doug said. “The port-a-cath was a lifesaver. If not for Meredith, I wouldn’t be in the position I am in. There are a lot of good doctors and nurses, but with Dr. Reardon, Dr. Jacks and Meredith, I had the best two doctors and nurse there are.”

Meredith also started a support group for head and neck cancer patients and caregivers. Doug and Robin have been involved and hope to continue.

“If I can help caregivers or he can help patients, that’s what we want to do: Start some mentoring, share tricks we discovered,” Robin said. “It’s really needed. The outcome, him being cancer-free – we attribute that to Meredith, our two doctors and God.”

Our Nurse Navigator program receives much-needed funding from the Smash Cancer Tennis Tournament, usually held in October. This year’s event was canceled, but donations are still needed. Please visit and select “Cancer Nurse Navigator” to support this important program. Thank you.