Cancer battle gets a helping hand at Overlake Hospital

Karlene Selset lost her hair with chemotherapy, but you wouldn't know it from the stylish bob she's wearing.

The auburn locks she sports are part of a wig, one of three that she picked up to look good while she's getting better.

Selset, a 41-year-old Bellevue resident, is undergoing treatment for Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at Overlake Hospital Medical Center, home to the American Cancer Society's first cancer-resource-navigation program for the Eastside.

Her wig came free of charge through the program, which offers classes on dealing with the cosmetic side effects of cancer.

But Selset needs help with more than her appearance these days. There’s an encyclopedia of information that she and her loved ones are taking in as they go through the process of treatment, care, and recovery.

That’s where Kelly Zant comes in. As Overlake’s new patient navigator, she directs people to the resources they need, whether it's transportation, financial assistance, makeovers, or support groups.

“It made me feel better that there was someone who could give me information instead of me always having to look for it on my own,” Selset said.

The cancer-resource navigation program is designed to help patients with social, economic, emotional and cultural challenges.

Sometimes that means getting creative, as often happens when patients experience financial trouble.

The navigation program doesn’t provide direct money for care, but Zant knows how to locate grants for utility bills, thereby freeing up some much-needed funds for those who are struggling.

“My role is to help patients identify their needs and any barriers to treatment,” Zant said. “We try to do the legwork for the patients so they don’t have to be the spearhead.”

Zant has a sense of what her patients are going through. Her mother survived two bouts with cancer.

“On some level, I’m able to relate with the patients and their families,” Zant said. “Cancer can impact people physically, emotionally, financially and spiritually. It can change the way you think about yourself and the world.”

Selset already has enough to think about. With a husband, two kids, and a job in IT management, lots of people rely on her to have all the answers.

Zant's job is to take a few cancer questions off her plate.

“It’s sort of like getting a new friend who has connections,” Selset said.

Joshua Adam Hicks can be reached at 425.453.4290.