DANSVILLE — The Ann and Carl Myers Cancer Center is open for business at Noyes Memorial Hospital.
The first medical oncology patients were seen on Jan. 9 in the new wing. The first radiation oncology patients will be seen on Jan. 30 in the new vault.
It took a lot of love and dedication from the University of Rochester Wilmot Cancer Institute, Noyes Health, Jones Memorial, community, and entire region to make this happen. The generous donation of $2 million from Ann and Carl Myers is what got this up and running two years ago. All in all the $8 million project has been supported and made possible by tons of good hearted people.
Noyes Health Engineering Project Manager Debra McCray gave a tour on Jan. 9 of the brand new regional cancer center.
“They had their first medical oncology patients today,” she said. “There were 30 in clinic patients and 16 patients here for infusions. We are now operating out of the new space. The Medical Oncology Clinic and Infusion Center was very busy due to the holiday.”
There are six doctors in total for the medical and radiology wings.
Noyes Health use to operate out of the old emergency room and ICU center on the third floor for infusions. Those areas are now available for something else.
“We added a new parking lot for the center, so people could walk right in,” McCray said. “Our parking is free, so people won’t have to pay $700 a year for parking.”
There was a lot added onto the old physical therapy wing for the cancer center. They had to dig 20 feet down for the vault, and there was a whole section added onto the back of the old physical therapy wing.
“Some of our patients have private rooms, because it is all code required,” McCray said. “There are some things in the clinic that need to follow certain code regulations.”
The very heavy equipment for radiology had to be lowered down a skylight in the cancer center, and took a lot of coordination and hard work.
“We had to have one million pounds of concrete just for the vault,” McCray said. “The staff are the only ones allowed to go down the stairs that connect the medical and radiology.”
McCray added that there were many local contract workers who worked on the vault.
Noyes Health Physicist Matthew Pacella is one of the people in charge of the vault. Pacella walked us through what the radiology equipment does for cancer patients.
“This machine uses high powered X-Rays to treat the patient,” he said. “It can treat tumors close to the skin, or go deeper into the body. The machine rotates and treats in many fashions. We can customize the radiation treatment to anywhere in the body. The only thing we can’t do here is treat brain tumors. People still need to go to Rochester for that.”
Pacella said they take all the data collected on the patient, and program it into the machine to determine where to treat. They can download information from MRI’s and CAT Scans as well.
Pacella said those who work on the machine will make sure it is ready, and in the right position for every patient.
“We can do more accurate and specific treatment with this,” he said. “We can get to the bad tissue without having to go through the normal tissue.”
The treatment for radiology oncology usually takes about 15 minutes at a time. Depending on the cancer a patient can go through up to 35 sessions.
“For neck and head cancer we put a plastic mask on them. We have a body cast for other cancers. We have a breast board for breast cancer,” Pacella said. “The patient can’t move. We have to make sure everything is right.”
During the treatment the radiation scatters around the room, so the walls are thick to make sure it dissipates after each treatment.
“The patients are the only ones in the room when the beam is on,” Pacella said. “We have the thick walls to protect the staff.”
“This is a state-of-the-art machine we got from Highland,” Pacella continued. “It really is a beautiful machine. Highland got a True Beam machine that cost about $6 million, and gave us their old one. It works the same way, except that the True Beam is easier to operate.”
Pacella added that is is sad to see people with cancer have to drive up to two hours for treatment, so this will make it nice for the entire community.
“Patients that live here can now come to Noyes for treatment,” he said. “We have access to the University of Rochester now, and can help patients.”
Noyes Health Marketing Director Mary Sue Dehn said there will be a formal dedication ceremony for Ann and Carl Myers on March 4. This is invitation only, since the center was open for a sneak peak to the community on Jan. 5.
“The community invested so much emotionally into the cancer center that we wanted them to be able to tour it,” she said. “We had a great turn out with tons of people. We had some cancer survivors there that are good at explaining what this center means. We can now give people back about three hours of travel time.”
Dehn said the tour was special for the caregivers of a cancer patient, since the radiation treatment is only seen by the patient.
“It gives the caregiver a better understanding of the process,” she said. “I wish I had known this process when my dad had cancer.”
Some of those who were at the sneak peak included two local cancer survivors, Jon Shay and Cindy Davis.
Wilmot Institute, Jones Memorial, and Noyes Health were also available for comments.
Shay mentioned how he felt about the cancer center in Dansville. His father was the one who donated land to have the hospital built in 1973.
“I have some very strong ties to the hospital. I have lived here my entire life. This is a very exciting time for us,” he said. “I never would’ve thought in 1973 that we would have a cancer center to serve the community in Dansville.”
Shay is a three-time cancer survivor. He had spinal tumors in 2010, prostate cancer in 2015, and spinal tumors in 2016. He had to go all the way to Rochester for several sessions of radiation treatment, and now people can stay home.
“It is marvelous the way that the people in the small communities have stepped up and made this a reality,” he said. “My family has had a lot of exposure to cancer.”
Shay lost his brother, Tim, to brain cancer in 2016, and his daughter had breast cancer at 42 years old.
Davis is a breast cancer survivor, and believes the cancer center is going to be a wonderful asset for the whole community. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015.
“I was 47 and healthy and my life turned into having to drive into Rochester for treatments, procedures, and surgeries. The treatments were the hardest part since I had to go everyday for over six weeks.”
Davis said she was lucky since she had a strong support system, but there are people who have no one to help them.
“For those who don’t have anyone to help them this is going to be such a positive impact,” she said. “I have worked at Noyes for 28 years, and lived here my entire life. It will be so much nicer for people to get what they need here and go home.”
Noyes Health CEO Amy Pollard said that they are very proud to show off the cancer center.
“We offered medical oncology for over 15 years, but it was only one day a week. Now we have had full-time service since January 2016. The medical side had been revamped over the past year,” she said. “We are very excited to now offer the radiation portion. I think the best part is that it reduces travel time for the patients.”
UR Medicine Wilmot’s Cancer Institute Regional Cancer Program Director David Dougherty said what makes this project special is the effort all the hospitals have put in to make this partnership work.
“The different communities came together to provide a service that is going to make a difference for the people in the area,” he said. “This facility brings them closer to home. It is amazing to see this come together from ground level to where we are today.”
Dougherty mentioned that the Ann and Carl Meyers Cancer Center is the largest cancer care provider in the state besides New York City.
Jones Memorial Vice President Joel Fox said that this cancer center makes a world of difference to the Allegany County cancer patients.
“They can now get treatment closer to home,” he said. “We currently have oncology services at Jones Memorial, but we can now get the infusions in Dansville, as well as radiation therapy. We have been very proud to be part of the planning for the regional cancer center.”