It was November 2009. Herb was in his doctor’s office and nothing could prepare him for the words he was about to hear. “You have cancer.” Over the next few days, numbness enveloped his family. They didn’t know what to do.
Despite rising survival rates, cancer continues to be the second most common cause of death in the United States, claiming 1,500 lives every day. Regardless of type, cancer is a complicated disease with a tedious and stressful treatment regimen. A heavily-involved and fragmented process, cancer treatment necessitates a variety of specialists, procedures and tests. Often, these services are not available at a single facility. Some hospitals may have an oncology department, but no oncology surgeon. Patients and their families are shuffled from one place to another over the course of several months. Cancer takes a toll not just on the victim, but on the entire family. In addition to the physical and emotional devastation, families must cope with time away from work, travel costs, childcare, side effects of treatment and financial drain.
Facing a daunting future, Herb and his family were gripped with fear. They felt helpless at the prospect of navigating a future so uncertain, so out of their control. But all that changed when Herb and his family met Cindi Cantril and the caregivers at Martin-O’Neil Cancer Center. “She took the pressure off of everything. The center was the absolute perfect setting for healing from every aspect.”
Personalized Treatment Eases Fears
Established at St. Helena Hospital in Northern California, the Martin-O’Neil Cancer Center is designed to be more than a medical facility. It is a healing center with personalized cancer treatment. Here, patients and their families can find everything they need for physical, emotional and spiritual healing. Three key elements — comprehensive services, a caring medical team and a message of hope — combine to create this incredible healing environment.
The 12,500 square foot facility was built with patients and ease of use in mind. Describing the concept behind the center, St. Helena Hospital President/CEO Terry Newmyer says, “We designed our cancer center to provide convenient, centralized care. Patients and their families are literally steps away from everything they need to navigate the healing process.” With all aspects of patient treatment housed under one roof, Martin-O’Neil Cancer Center is able to provide truly comprehensive care.
In addition to these centrally located services, the center has developed a partnership with one of the top 10 cancer research facilities in the nation — University of California, San Francisco. This affiliation allows patients access to National Cancer Institute-sponsored clinical trials. Their unique brand of specialized, patient-centric care attracts cancer sufferers from beyond the Napa Valley. Forty percent of Martin-O’Neil Cancer Center’s patient-base comes from the economically-disadvantaged areas of Lake County, 90 minutes away. To accommodate those patients, the center operates a free shuttle service — picking them up from a sister clinic in the area.
Offering a Complete Package
But services at the center extend beyond traditional cancer treatment. The facility’s staff focuses on whole-person integrated care with behavioral therapy, nutritional support and spiritual counseling. The center’s restoration spa is paramount in providing a peaceful, healing environment for patients and their families.
Also available is the resource library. A free service open to the community, the library houses a large collection of books, magazines and other media. Here, patients and family members are guided by a resource specialist. The resource library has proven that a better understanding of cancer and its treatments can alleviate the fear of uncertainty that can accompany diagnosis.
The team at Martin-O’Neil Cancer Center is comprised of 11 oncology specialists in a variety of fields, including radiation, chemotherapy and surgery among others. These caregivers collaborate to create personalized treatment plans for every patient. Shepherding these patients through the treatment process is a “nurse navigator,” Cindi Cantril. An oncology-certified cancer nurse, Cantril has more than 30 years of experience. But her greatest asset is her genuine interest in her patients. She makes a point of forging personal relationships with patients, making them feel comfortable and secure throughout their treatment. She is available 24/7, even giving out her personal cell phone number to patients. “I want my patients to know I really care,” she says. “I’m like their GPS. I follow them on my computer while they are at the center and make at least 12 to 15 face-to-face contacts every day.”
Visually Depicting Hope
There is an overriding theme at the Martin-O’Neil Cancer Center — at the heart of its personalized treatment plans, resource library and nurse navigator. It is hope and it is embodied in the 13-foot high sculpture that adorns the lobby.
JoAline Olson, vice president of Innovations at Adventist Health says, “The Hope Tree is the first thing you see upon entering the facility. We want everyone who comes through the door to feel peace, relief, to know that they’ve found a place that will help them through this ordeal.”
Bathed in warm yellow and green earth tones, the lobby exudes a feeling of peacefulness. Engraved on the tree are 48 symbols of hope from around the world, representing different cultures and faiths — praying hands, angels and olive branches. A sleeping lamb lies tucked behind its roots, symbolizing peace amidst the struggles of life. In the trunk is an opening that holds messages from patients, family members and caregivers. These are messages of hope, of encouragement, of love. They serve as a hopeful reminder to new patients: you are not alone.
These messages gave Herb and his family the strength to endure their struggle with cancer. Six months later, Herb was declared cancer-free. Now, his story will do the same for others.
The Martin-O’Neil Cancer Center not only inspired hope in Herb and the rest of its patients, but also in St. Helena Hospital as a whole. The team’s care epitomizes the Adventist Health mission “to share God’s love by providing physical, mental and spiritual healing.” Their focused care and success of patients like Herb has revitalized the entire Adventist Health system, imbuing them with sense of purpose and accomplishment.
Feature image by corey oconnell on Unsplash