When Ellen Phagan's mother, Dorothy Adams, was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003, they considered several different places to get treatment. As a Gillette resident, Ellen knew that Campbell County Health had just recently opened its
radiation oncology unit at the
Heptner Cancer Center. When they toured the facility, they were impressed by the staff and the technology in use there.
"Anytime she had a question about anything, they would answer her," Ellen said. "The gals were very nice and very efficient."
Dorothy finished her radiation treatment and continued with annual check-ups with John Stamato, MD, MPA, FACRO, at the Heptner Cancer Center for many years, building long-standing relationships with the doctors and staff there. In 2011, when she learned that the cancer had ultimately metastasized to her liver, Dorothy turned to the staff at the Heptner Cancer Center for treatment again.
Fighting terminal cancer, Dorothy had many questions about treatment options and the different procedures she would need. During the next four years Dorothy would regularly have a procedure called paracentesis to remove excess fluid in her abdomen. She also underwent a number of procedures at the center from MRIs (Magnetic resonance imaging) and
CT (X-ray computed tomography) scans to radiation treatment.
"They always treated Mom with respect and kindness and they were always professional," Ellen said. "Dr. Stamato always took the time to visit with us and it didn't always have to be about Mom."
Building those close-knit connections with patients is important to the staff at the Heptner Cancer Center, according to Leigh Worsley,
MS, RTT, CMD, center manager. A cancer survivor herself, Leigh knows the importance of kindness, compassion and caring during a fight with cancer.
"Our greatest attribute here is we treat our patients and the families like they're our family," Leigh said. "They get really compassionate care here."
Though the Heptner Cancer Center is smaller compared to large regional hospitals, it still offers the latest in technology, Leigh said. The linear accelerator used for radiation treatments is only two years old and is the same type of machine used in larger hospitals in the region. And what the center lacks in size is made up for many times over in the personal, quality care, Leigh said.
"We're a small center in a tight-knit community," Leigh said. "We're not so busy that we're rushing people through."
Because of the focus on excellent patient care, Dr. Stamato, Keith Mills, MD, and the Heptner Cancer Center staff take the time to tailor treatment and work closely with patients to ensure the best care possible. Both doctors typically provide patients with their cell phone numbers and are dedicated to provide individualized care and treatment, Leigh said.
"Every cancer is different and every patient is different," Leigh said. "Both chemo and radiation can have pretty big side effects on your body. We offer a lot of things to help our patients deal with treatment and its side effects."
The team at the Cancer Center includes doctors, nurses,
dietitians and even a
chaplain who all rally around patients to encourage, education and stand by them during their treatment. That one-on-one care was something important to Ellen and her mother.
"They were just very accommodating," Ellen said. "They're interested in the patient and helping them."
When her mother passed away earlier this year, it was easy for Ellen to decide that memorials to her mother would be donated to the Heptner Cancer Center in the hopes that the facility could purchase other much needed equipment for patient care in the near future.
Article written by Kim Phagan-Hansel, Wyoming freelance writer