When Bill Clark finished up his last round of chemotherapy at the MultiCare Regional Cancer Center in Puyallup, the nurses treated him to the foods he’d inexplicably craved during his six months of treatment: a giant Slurpee and three beef jerky sticks.
Clark still laughs – and tears up a little – talking about it.
“Those gals have so much grace and love and compassion for people,” Clark says. “I couldn’t have gotten any better care.”
The South Hill resident received his treatment at the MultiCare Regional Cancer Center at the Dr. Richard C. Ostenson Cancer Center at MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital. The clinic, which expanded its services in 2011 to provide more comprehensive treatment, gives MultiCare cancer patients in the Puyallup area access to chemotherapy -- and other cancer treatment resources -- close to home. MultiCare patients needing chemo used to travel to Tacoma or Auburn.
“It’s had a huge impact,” says Dr. Jasmine Daniels, the Puyallup cancer center’s medical oncologist.
The Puyallup cancer center also offers social work, nutritional services, and access to the MultiCare Regional Cancer Center’s nurse navigators, who help answer patient questions and guide their care.
“One of the greatest benefits is that with these additional services we’ve been able to better help the underserved -- those who are uninsured and underinsured,” Dr. Daniels said.
A positive attitude
Bill Clark was 55 when he learned he had stage 3 colon cancer. Clark had mentioned to his nurse practitioner that he’d been feeling tired and worn out for weeks. She ordered some blood work – and upon discovering he was anemic, suggested he schedule a colonoscopy.
“The results weren’t so good,” he says.
But Clark was determined to keep a positive attitude. His first treatment was surgery. Clark recalled being in the hospital for a surgery as a teenager. He was laid up with soldiers from the Vietnam War recovering from injuries. His fellow patients urged him to walk the halls and move around if he wanted to get out. So he got up and started walking the halls.
“I knew I wasn’t going to leave quickly unless I was motivated,” he says. “Some of the other patients would get up to see what I was doing – then the next day you’d see them doing a half a loop around the hall.”
He took that same motivation and optimistic outlook back to Puyallup.
“He was unbelievably gracious and always kind and positive and upbeat – even when things could have gone better,” Dr. Daniels said.
Camaraderie and care in Puyallup
Clark knew the nurses and staff by name. He and his wife used to own a Christian bookstore, and they’d strike up conversations with other patients about faith. The camaraderie they forged helped him endure the five or six hour treatments he received every other Monday from January to June.
Being close to home – while still connected to the region’s cancer care experts -- was also a comfort.
“With Good Samaritan being part of MultiCare, it’s like having a big brother that wasn’t there before,” Clark says. “The expertise and breadth and depth of services they can tap into are really cool. Your doctors are not just talking to others at the hospital, but connecting with all the other doctors in the region.”
Clark’s last day of chemo in Puyallup was something to celebrate. A lover of hats, he wore a jester cap. The nursing staff wore Hawaiian scrubs, and gave Clark a plastic lei. The patients and staff applauded as he completed his last infusion.
“The thing is that as much I felt like they loved me, the cancer staff gave that same amount of love to everyone,” Clark says.
He’s now been cancer free for more than a year. He’s back to work, and also spending some precious time with his new grandson. His love for that little guy has him spurred him to work even harder at improving his health. Since his chemo, Clark has sworn off sugar, and lost nearly 30 pounds.
“It’s definitely encouraged me to take better care of myself,” he says.