Cancer survivors help newly diagnosed patients at UNC Lineberger Cancer Center

(CBS North Carolina)

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – Cancer – it’s a terrifying diagnosis and one Barry Golob has heard before.

First, it was lymphoma more than 30 years ago.

Then prostate cancer in 2000.

So when doctors told him he had lung cancer last year, to some extent he knew the routine.

“Just put on the armor and go to battle because that’s all you can do,” Golob said.

This diagnosis was different though.

Lung cancer kills more people every year than any other kind of cancer, so when he went to UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center for treatment, Golob felt anxious.

“I was in pain from the biopsies and just very confused – very confused – as to what I was going into,” he recalled.

He’s thankful there was someone who eased that confusion.

Tomma Hargraves is a lay patient navigator at UNC Lineberger.

She works alongside doctors and nurses to help cancer patients cope with their diagnoses and understand what to expect.

She speaks to patients from her own personal experience.

Doctors diagnosed Hargraves with lung cancer in 2006.

“I never prayed to be cured. I prayed to have the strength to get through whatever I had to get through. I don’t know if that made a difference,” she said. “I don’t know why I survived and some people don’t survive.”

But she knew she wanted to help other cancer patients, so more than 10 years after her own grueling cancer treatments, she spends her days back in the hospital doing her best to take away a little of the fear for others.

“It’s a hope. It’s an encouragement. It’s – if they can get through it, I can get through it,” said Golob. “I see people like Tomma, and some days are not easy, but I know that I can get back up and try to emulate her.”

Golob, who has now finished his treatment, says he might just come back to the hospital, too.

“It’s time to give back, and that’s what she does every day.”

UNC Lineberger recently received a grant to expand the lay patient navigator program to 10 other hospitals across the state.

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