STORY OF THE MONTH: Full Circle, From Cancer to Remission to Patient Resource Navigator

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  • STORY OF THE MONTH: Full Circle, From Cancer to Remission to Patient Resource Navigator
Spirit of Survival Program changes cancer patient’s life

Dan Elsbury was driving home from a round of disc golf with his buddies when he felt an odd pain in his abdomen. He ignored it for months, but finally went to see a doctor in January. The physician prescribed a colonoscopy, a somewhat unusual procedure for an otherwise healthy 31-year-old.

On Feb. 4, 2015, Dan received the test results—late Stage 2/early Stage 3 colorectal cancer. “I never thought my life could change so much in one moment,” he says. “No one wants to get news like that.”

Dan immediately began 5 ½ weeks of radiation and chemotherapy at Shaw Regional Cancer Center. Then he went to Denver for surgery.

Once he was back in Vail, he dove into his recovery. He began taking advantage of Shaw’s “Spirit of Survival” program, which includes customized fitness training, nutrition counseling, emotional support and many other services.

“Spirit of Survival is phenomenal,” Dan says. “It has changed my life, not only physically, but mentally as well. It’s like a breath of fresh air.”

As part of Fit for Survival, a component of the Spirit of Survival program, Dan works out daily in Shaw’s fitness studio with exercise physiologists who specialize in cancer care.  Funded by Pink Vail, all Spirit of Survival services are provided free to all Shaw patients.

“This program and all the people behind it have affected my life in such a positive way,” Dan says “I wouldn’t be where I am today without it or them!

Dan had such a strong appreciation for the work being done at Shaw that he eventually chose to join the team. When Dan battled cancer for about two years while at Shaw, he took note of the report between himself and the staff. These days, Dan is cancer-free and works as a Patient Resource Navigator with Shaw.

“The main role (of the job) is to provide myself as a resource to patients, families and caregivers, but also to help out the entire staff,” said Elsbury. “It’s about half patient interaction … just checking in with them. I direct them to the right person and places to go, I make sure they’re on track for appointments and not feeling lost.”

Dan refers to Shaw as “a second home,” and said, “Spirit of Survival essentially saved my life by having a social worker for emotional support and a dietician and exercise physiologist to help me really change my lifestyle.”

“After participating in the Pink Vail funded Spirit of Survival program and getting my health back, I realized Shaw was where I wanted to start the next chapter of my life. I became a volunteer for most of 2018 and was recently offered a full time position. As a Patient Resource Navigator, I am a resource to patients, their caregivers and staff. I am truly blessed at how Pink Vail and Shaw Cancer Center have come full circle. I am proof that life can turn a negative situation into a positive one and I hope to inspire others.”

– Daniel Elsbury, Patient Resource Navigator

Pink VailShaw Cancer Center  | Vail Health