Eugene (KMTR) – A group of doctors in Lane County is taking on a new initiative to better treat their patients in the long term. The Willamette Valley Cancer Institute and Research Center specializes in treating patients will all forms of cancer, but now they're asking, “What happens after the cancer treatment ends?”
Rhonda Slavkovsky of Eugene was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in April of 2009. She had surgery and is now on her fourth round of chemotherapy. Just last month, she was invited by WVCI to attend a special retreat for cancer survivors—along with her doctor.
“It was really great to be around people who have experienced—not that cancer is good—but people who have experienced it and are making it through it and seeing progress,” says Slavokovsky. “It's a whole different group of people. I mean, they're all very happy and positive and going in the right direction.”
Rhonda's doctor, oncologist Deborah Dotters, is a cancer survivor herself. She says emphasizing wellness once the cancer treatment is over helps patients put the other pieces of their lives back together.
Dr. Dotters explains, “It’s difficult for a lot of patients, because their family and friends are, like, ‘You're done, you're celebrating. This should be the happiest day of your life.’ And patients are often depressed and exhausted emotionally and physically. There's a grief that they go through, because they may have lost a body part, they may have lost their fertility.”
Willamette Valley Cancer Institute plans to roll out the next phase of its survivorship program for its patients next year. It will incorporate everything from emotional and financial support to exercise programs and educational workshops about life with cancer.