Lowell General Cancer Center Turns 20
LOWELL -- Four years ago, Pam Paquin was diagnosed with breast cancer. Simultaneously, her daughter was dealing with her own physical and emotional issues after hitting her head.
To not worry her daughter, Paquin, of Tewksbury, did not tell her the bad news. While she had to put on a strong face at home, Paquin was getting radiation treatments at Lowell General Hospital’s Cancer Center.
“This place became my family,” Paquin said at the center’s 20th anniversary celebration Saturday. “The first day of radiation, I was nervous. But, they put you at ease here. Everyone that I’ve dealt with here is so nice.”
Paquin admits sometimes it is hard to talk about her story because of the negative feelings they can stir up. But at Saturday’s event, Paquin said it was comforting to see people again who truly felt like family.
When the Cancer Center opened in 1998, the goal was to provide a variety of services to cancer patients all under one roof. Dr. Murat Anamur, the center’s medical director, said cancer treatment is complicated and requires a large team of health care providers to address different aspects of the disease. Dealing with the diagnosis as well as traveling to multiple locations for different areas of treatment can be a stress for patients.
“That’s why 20 years ago we felt we should move in the direction of what we call a patient-centered perspective. That means, we should bring all necessary services to the patient rather than the patient going from place to place to place,” Anamur said. “So, the natural next step based on this patient-centered perspective is to build this comprehensive cancer center that brings all the services under one roof.”
Cyndy Michaels is a clinical sleep technologist at Lowell General Hospital. When she was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, it was only natural that she got treatment at the LGH Cancer Center. Being at the anniversary celebration, Michaels said it is comforting to know she is not alone.
“Getting treatment here, it was obviously a lot easier to stay around here. It would have been hard to go to Boston all the time and my triplets were 10 at the time,” said Michaels, of Lowell. “It’s nice for it to be close and for it to be a great place as well.”
In one year, Michaels underwent six rounds of chemotherapy and five surgeries. She has been cancer-free for 14 years. She is running a 70s themed-party Saturday at the Lo Kai restaurant in Dracut to benefit the Cancer Center.
Anamur said the goal is to also maintain a relationship with cancer survivors who have received treatment at LGH.
“Some of those patients I see here, I don’t remember when the cancer treatment was completed and when I ask and they say, ‘Well we had this diagnosis when your son was like 6 months old or 1 year old,’” Anamur said. “My son right now is 24 so they remember that and that kind of becomes like a measuring stick. That happens all the time.”
Sherry Roberge, the center’s chief radiation therapist said events where survivors come together are nostalgic for her. Saturday’s celebration was complete with food, live entertainment and tours of the Cancer Center.
“It’s a great occasion to celebrate with the patients that we saw at their worst and now we get to see them at their best,” she said. “We know that they’ve moved on beyond their cancer care and now they just want to give their thanks back onto those who took care of them.”
The Cancer Center’s Social Work Director Meg Lemire-Berthel said her team works with patients throughout the course of their treatments. Whether it is maneuvering the health care system, finding public benefits or just adjusting to their illness, the social work team is there to help.
“Having walked this walk before -- I’ve buried both parents to cancer and my 52-year-old sister -- it’s actually, for me, an honor to have patients allow me to walk this journey with them,” Lemire-Berthel said.
To register for the 70s Party to benefit the Cancer Center, visit www.teamwalk.org .
Follow Kori Tuitt on Twitter @KoriTuitt.