Feb 15, 2018 12:00 PM

Marina Pimentel and her husband, Kent
Marina Pimentel and her husband, Kent

Each year, more than 1,000 adolescents and young adults (AYAs) in Utah are diagnosed with cancer. For many of these young people, age 15-39, a cancer diagnosis is their first real medical issue. Patients may suddenly have to learn the difference between a medical oncologist and a radiation oncologist. They may also have questions about future fertility issues or need help understanding the health care system.

This was the case for Marina Pimentel, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of blood cancer, at age 26. Marina worked with Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah and Intermountain Healthcare’s Huntsman-Intermountain Adolescent and Young Adult (HI-AYA) Program to help her manage the complexities of cancer treatment and care.

Through the HI-AYA Program, patient navigators such as Sara Salmon work with patients and help them find information and resources. Navigators support AYA patients throughout their cancer diagnosis, treatment, recovery, and beyond.

“My goal is to help adolescents and young adults break down barriers in the health care continuum, from diagnosis through survivorship,” said Sara. “My favorite part about my role is helping to empower young people to advocate for themselves and their own well-being.”

Marina met Sara right after her last chemotherapy treatment ended, and at a time when she needed help embarking on a new life after cancer treatment.

“Sara was a huge help after I finished my treatment,” said Marina. “Even if she didn’t know the answer right away, I knew she had the resources to help.”

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