LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — We're celebrating the 25th year for New Outlook at CHI St. Vincent.
It's the oldest cancer navigation system in the state. And it's a place where you meet earth angels, like Alesa Garner.
Alesa Garner will never forget that day, 23 years ago, when she was told, 'you have cancer.'
"When I heard those words, I thought, 'Oh my word, I have two teenage children. What in the world? What do I need to start planning?'" Garner said.
She was 42. Breast cancer was not in her family history. But CHI St. Vincent's New Outlook helped her through every step of the process.
"Actually, my diagnosis totally changed my life focus, my profession," she said.
She became a valuable member of a support group and eventually, her story led her to becoming a breast navigator.
"Breast navigator is someone who walks beside someone through a journey," she explained.
And not just for those diagnosed with cancer.
"It could mean before diagnosis when people are searching out answers," Garner said.
And now, Alesa heads up the program where the main ingredient is empathy.
"Anybody can tell medical facts and statistics and all that, but not everybody can sit down and go, 'I know how you feel,'" she said.
And because she has been there and lived it, her wisdom flows easily and provides comfort. Here's a free sample:
"The number one thing that people say is, 'When will I be normal again?'" she said.
And her response?
"You're going to have to navigate a new normal, which doesn't mean a worse normal, just new," she explained.
Her army of hand holders brings stability at a time of upheaval.
"It's a continuum of care that just doesn't stop with the diagnosis," Garner said.
As good as they all are at New Outlook, Alesa and her people actually hope you never need them.
"It's the preventive part of it. We don't want anybody diagnosed with breast cancer, we want to prevent it," she said.
Prevent it in so many ways, all of them pointing to wearing the gown. As always, Alesa has a better way to say it.
"Take the time. You're worth it. You have to be there in order to take care of all those people you love, so take care of yourself," she said.