Personal Cancer Experience Drives Nurse’s Passion For Care

May 23, 2019
By: Blair Callahan, Duke Health Communications

For her cancer patients, Valarie Worthy, MSN, RN, is a light in the dark.

As a patient navigator for the Duke Cancer Center, Worthy helps patients with transportation, housing, childcare, therapy or spiritual support services while they’re undergoing cancer care. 

Her passion for helping patients navigate the complicated, scary world of cancer care is driven by her own experience as a 20-year breast cancer survivor. 

“Being both a nurse and a cancer survivor, I’m able to understand the cancer patient experience and help patients, especially those newly diagnosed, understand that there is hope,” she said. “Some of the anxiety and apprehension they’re experiencing can be alleviated through just speaking with someone else who’s been through the same thing, and come through it stronger and healthy.” 

Her commitment to patients doesn’t end within the hospital walls. Worthy established the Duke Cancer Center Community Advisory Board to assess the needs of cancer patients and their caregivers, and she founded a support organization for African American female cancer survivors. She also spends her free time organizing community health events and helps members of her church get access to the health care they need. 

“I’m fulfilling my purpose in life as a nurse, cancer survivor and member of my church,” she said. “Those three things have led me to where I am today and allowed me to reach out and help the people I’ve been able to connect with.” 

Worthy’s impact resonates with the numerous patients she’s cared for and those she’s come in contact with across the community. 

For all these reasons she is one of 36 DUHS and PDC nurses to receive 2019 Friends of Nursing awards. 

Her nominator Cheryl Brewer said Worthy “has a heart that never hardens, a temper that never tires, a touch that never hurts and the heartfelt passion to be the ideal recipient of a Friends of Nursing Award.”