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Published on August 23, 2017

brittany bisdorf and her mom jill

Woman Fighting Ovarian Cancer Finds Absolute Relief in Navigation Center

In one summer four years ago, everything changed for Lennox, S.D., native Brittany Bisdorf.

She graduated from college. Her boyfriend proposed to her and they made plans to create a life in a city 14 hours away from home in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. They started planning their wedding. And she received a diagnosis from her doctor: ovarian cancer.

Her local specialist wasn’t very local – it was a good two-hour drive from home – but she began her care and made the trek for four years, until she was told it was time to look elsewhere for treatment. She needed continued chemotherapy, but the targeted therapy required wasn’t available. She began a process of trying to find a health care facility that could help. That’s when she and her mother, Jill Adams of Sioux Falls, reached out to Avera.

From that point on, her stress went down and her fight with cancer, using leading-edge approaches including clinical trials, continued with gusto. It literally started with one phone call.

“In Michigan, the care was fine, but when I needed to pursue care elsewhere I really struggled. The chemotherapy was really sapping my strength, and I knew I needed help on several levels,” Bisdorf said. “I called the Avera Cancer Institute Navigation Center and it absolutely relieved my stress. I called and they did the rest – they put me in touch with who I needed to see, what I needed to do.”

Returning to Care

When Bisdorf began her treatment, she reached out to various sites around the Midwest and Great Lakes regions, and her mother encouraged her to consider Avera, where both women had some experience.

“The distance would be hard, and I knew from my research there was a lot to do, so many records to send and so much to look up and learn, and I was trying to do that and go through my treatment. It was difficult,” said Bisdorf. “When I transferred my care to Avera, the navigator took all that off my plate. They did all the liaison work for me, and they answered all my mom’s questions as well.”

Before she even reached Sioux Falls, Avera Medical Group gynecological oncologist Luis Rojas, MD, and his team were preparing for Bisdorf’s arrival.

“When I came to Sioux Falls, I went right to the emergency room due to some medical complications, and it wasn’t just Dr. Rojas who made their presence known. There was a team ready for me, and I was already on their radar, even though we had not met,” she said. “I had a complete support system, with doctor, nurses, social worker, my navigator allies and a dietitian as well.”

Parallel Battles

In the face of her ovarian cancer, Bisdorf was also trying to “do it all” and cover the bases of insurance, medical bills and research on side effects and other aspects of her cancer as she tried to get better.

Once the Avera Cancer Center navigation team began its work, she no longer had to feel overwhelmed with those important aspects of the cancer journey. She could focus on her priority: getting better. Rojas began her on a clinical trial with treatment in March 2017 and she now takes an oral chemotherapy drug that allows her to be more active and to continue her fight.

“Now I feel all aspects of this disease are being treated,” Bisdorf said. “No matter what I face, I know I can make a single call and have issues addressed. My mom can call with her questions or to get help. There’s no logistics or record-keeping or transfer work I have to worry about.”

She said anyone facing a cancer diagnosis should reach out to a system with navigation, because help is available, and it worked so well for her.

“The Avera Cancer Navigation Center is not a call center – they know me and they remember me,” she said. “If you need help, I would encourage you to reach out to them – they have done so much for us.”

Editor's note: Brittany passed away peacefully on Nov. 27, 2017, after a five-year courageous battle with ovarian cancer. In her memory, her family and care team honor her by sharing her story.

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