Melissa Pendergrass is a champion of PearlPoint Cancer Support’s mission in so many different ways! As an Oncology Nurse Navigator at Parkridge Medical Center in Chattanooga, Tenn., Melissa works with those impacted by cancer on a daily basis. She regularly refers her patients to PearlPoint for nutrition consultations, clinical trial education, and help answering the practical and emotional questions that come along with a diagnosis. This year marked Melissa’s third year to volunteer as Event Director for Wine & Pearls, an annual fundraising event presented by Parkridge Medical Center to benefit PearlPoint, including one year when she impressively managed to plan it before and after maternity leave. During her three years as Event Director, Melissa has helped raise more than $100,000 in funds to support PearlPoint. For pictures from this year’s event click here. We are grateful for her service to our clients both directly and as a volunteer, and we are excited to celebrate Melissa in our inaugural PearlPoint Spotlight. Watch for future monthly posts celebrating valued members of our team.
PearlPoint: Why did you become a cancer nurse navigator? What do you find most gratifying about your work?
Melissa Pendergrass: I became a nurse navigator because I liked the idea that I can assist patients with struggles that they may encounter in their cancer process that other medical professionals may not have time to address. I see my job as a way to ease any burdens I can so that the patient can focus on treatment and healing.As a nurse navigator, I get to spend a lot of time getting to know patients and trying to assist them with whatever their needs may be related to their cancer journey.Some of the things I do are education, connecting patients to support groups or resources, like PearlPoint, emotional support, and helping patients find financial assistance.There is a lot of variance in my job that I love.
PP: What’s the most common struggle you find your patients face?
MP: The most common struggles my patients face are financial issues.These are often related to medical bills, copayments, insurance premiums, fuel costs to get to treatment, and loss of income due to treatment or disease, etc.
PP: How long have you worked with PearlPoint as a referral source? What sets PearlPoint apart from other cancer organizations?
MP: I have worked with PearlPoint as a referral source since 2010.PearlPoint offers valuable resources to patients when I don’t have answers or in collaboration withother resources.It is very helpful for patients to know that PearlPoint’s services are all free of charge, especially the dietitians and social workers.
PP: What’s your favorite Wine & Pearls memory?
MP: My favorite Wine & Pearls memory was from 2012 and related to the silent auction.We had a very popular item, and from what I understand we had two people bidding back and forth in what became an intense scene.I was told that Wine & Pearls had officially “made it” as an event since we had our first auction bidding war. While funny, it was a proud moment!
Thank you Melissa for being such a great supporter of our mission and valued member of our team! Through her work Melissa has helped us create more confident cancer journey for adults anytime, anywhere.