Its news that everyone dreads: a cancer diagnosis for you or a loved one. And on that first day of treatment, walking through the doors of a hospital can be difficult.
“Naturally you have a certain amount of anxiety and trepidation, particularly if you are newly diagnosed. The sight of the building alone can scare people – it’s a cancer centre. But as soon as you walk into the front doors everyone – from the reception all the way through to the people who are doing the blood work, right through to the nurses or doctors – they’re just as kind and caring as you can possibly imagine,” said Frank Johnson, a patient at Grand River Hospital’s Regional Cancer Centre.
Centrally located in K-W and celebrated this weekend, the hospital’s cancer department has saved many in the area from the long trips and even longer lines in Toronto, Hamilton or London that were the norm before the centre opened a decade ago. Saturday, in fact, marks its 10th anniversary.
Making an impression inside and out, the building has become a big part of Johnson’s life as he continues to battle chronic lymphocytic leukemia. He commuted to Toronto for treatments until he opted for the new hematology department at the centre nine years ago.
“I could not believe how beautiful the building was. When you first walk in you see the beautiful stonework, fireplace and it’s just a really welcoming environment. There are lots of volunteers waiting right there as soon as you come in the front door.”
Long drives used to be a regular part of Johnson’s routine to get treatment at Princess Margaret Hospital, and while he praises the Toronto facility, nothing beats immediate care. Just this past week, high fevers resulting from his condition led the Kitchener man to seek the aid of local specialists.
“If my only treatment centre was in Toronto, it would take me forever to get down there and I’d be a lot sicker by the time I got there,” he said.
“There are lots of patients across Ontario who don’t have easy access to their treatments and so they travel miles and miles and miles in order to get treatment.”
“In the past that’s what patients had to do,” said Judy Burns, the GRH’s vice-president of diagnostic services.
“Now almost all the cancer treatment can be done here. There are a few cancers which are very low volume that we don’t treat, but we are typically able to provide all of the treatment closer to home.”
Over a decade, the centre has made chemotherapy available in local hospitals across the region and today boasts genetic testing and diagnostic assessment programs crucial to speeding up treatment of fast moving conditions like lung cancer.
It took three years and $56.7 million to erect the GRH Regional Cancer Centre. Since 2003, it has provided 13,796 patients with radiation therapy and chemotherapy for 11,699 patients. It has been regularly named the top cancer centre in the province, according to Cancer Care Ontario.
Free public celebrations Saturday at the GRH Regional Cancer Centre (835 King St. W., Kitchener) will include tours, giveaways and a featured presentation by CTV health expert Dr. Marla Shapiro, 9 a.m. to noon.