Cancer care center to open this month at EvergreenMonroe hospital

MONROE — Soon, many cancer patients won’t need to travel to Kirkland, Everett or Seattle for chemotherapy treatments.
A new cancer center at EvergreenHealth Monroe opens Jan. 10.
The health care provider previously provided some cancer treatments through a contract with The Everett Clinic, but it’s invested in its own team and is expanding those services starting this month.
The center is intended to serve patients such as Monroe resident Luther Johnson. During a 44-day course of chemotherapy, he spent more than $600 in gas commuting to Kirkland, Johnson said in a video promoting the new center.
At the heart of the project is a new alliance between EvergreenHealth Monroe and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA).
SCCA physicians provide top-notch “oversight, expertise and experience,” said EvergreenHealth Monroe’s chief administrative officer Renée Jensen.
Workers were applying finishing touches to the new center during a recent tour.
The center includes three private suites that will give patients who prefer quiet, or feel ill during treatment, to have solitude during treatments that can last five to six hours, explained nurse June Ulrich, the oncology nurse navigator.
A larger windowed space with three treatment chairs will allow patients to chat or quietly commune.
The social support can be an important element for patients who find their doctor’s office is a second home during chemotherapy regimens that may span several days a week for months.
People find their best friends during treatment, Ulrich said.
The new center will speak to small-town people who might find the drive and size of larger facilities intimidating, she explained.
Ulrich is one of a team of three medical professionals who recently joined EvergreenHealth Monroe to assist patients at the new center.
They will be joined one day a week by SCCA oncologist and hematologist Timothy Carlos, who currently works out of the EvergreenHealth Kirkland facility.
The center will open in January for once-per-week infusions but plans to expand to two to three days a week in March.
They’ll be able to treat dozens of types of cancer there, from lung cancer to blood cancer, as well as blood disorders.
The center was part of Jensen’s vision from the time she joined the hospital about 18 months ago. “We can have a huge impact,” she said she realized.
The result will be a cancer care center that provides stability to patients and some perks to ease their treatment.
A new feature is a resource room. It includes everything from a donation of more than 100 wigs to reading material on how a cancer diagnosis can affect one’s sex life, medical assistant Katie Joy said.
Joy recently spent hours with a pro learning how to fit the wigs so patients can leave confident in their new ‘dos.
And each patient will receive their own blanket during treatment, she said. “Getting a diagnosis is terrifying. We want to do everything we can do.”
Joy was awed by the community’s outpouring of support when she posted the blanket request to Facebook. Now the center has “tons and tons of blankets,” she said.
A new nutrition room means patients will always have something to snack on. The hospital’s also planning on letting family members order food electronically so they don’t have to leave their loved ones during treatment.
For Ulrich, a main selling point of the center is its intimacy. “I love to get to know people, for them to feel heard and get the best quality care,” she said. She’s found working at a smaller center makes that easier.
The center is a community-sponsored enterprise. From new equipment to new staff, the costs add up quickly.
The nonprofit EvergreenHealth Monroe Foundation made the center its fundraising recipient for 2018. It raised $240,000 at a Blue Jeans and Boots gala in September, said foundation director Blake Vintertun.
Jensen hopes the center will grow quickly and can start phase two, reconstructing the cancer care floor to better tailor its layout to patients.
EvergreenHealth Monroe will host a community open house for the center featuring tours, refreshments and a ribbon cutting beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 17. The center is at 14701 179th Ave. SE.
To donate to the cancer center through the foundation, go to www.evergreenhealth