When walkers and runners, families and friends, co-workers and neighbors gather at the Salem Willows on June 24 for the 22nd annual North Shore Cancer WALK and 3rd annual North Shore Cancer RUN
, they will not only be showing their support for cancer patients and survivors but also helping to advance life-saving, world-class cancer care on the North Shore.
Last year’s Cancer WALK/RUN featured record-breaking crowds and topped the $1million mark for the first time in four years. Beginning in August, some of those funds will be used toward a $4 million renovation of NSMC’s inpatient oncology unit. This project follows the $50 million in improvements already made to the Salem Campus over the past four years supported by the successful $15 million Best Care, Right Place campaign, which concluded last spring.
Located on the ninth floor of the Davenport Building, the inpatient oncology unit serves cancer patients who require specific forms of chemotherapy that can only be delivered in an inpatient setting or who need specialized care as a result of complications from chemotherapy.
Ray Levesque of Saugus is one of those patients. In September 2010, the 55-year-old marketing executive was diagnosed with an aggressive form of lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system.
"I’d been having abdominal pain for about three weeks,” Levesque recalls. “I was about to leave for vacation in Bermuda and didn’t want to feel lousy while I was away, so I figured I’d have it checked out. It never occurred to me that the pain could be a sign of something serious.”
Levesque received his diagnosis the day after he returned from vacation, when he says his treatment went into “hyper-speed.” After a week in NSMC’s intensive care unit for treatment of internal bleeding associated with his lymphoma, Levesque began a course of chemotherapy that included six outpatient sessions at the Mass General/North Shore Cancer Center in Danvers plus three inpatient sessions on Davenport 9, under the care of Mass General/North Shore Cancer Center oncologist James Weitzman, M.D.
“From diagnosis through treatment, cancer exacts a physical and emotional toll on patients,” says Dr. Weitzman. “While our current facilities allow us to provide effective clinical care, we saw a need to create a more comfortable, supportive environment that will make it easier for patients to focus on their health and well-being."
As part of the renovation, the inpatient oncology unit’s six private patient rooms will be redesigned to include family space for overnight stays. An enhanced caregiver area in each room combined with centralized resources will improve overall efficiency.
Levesque, who today is in total remission and “feeling great,” has a good idea of the
difference these planned changes will make. He recently spent a few days in NSMC’s recently renovated Phippin Building following a knee replacement and describes the patient rooms there as “spectacular.”
As Dr. Weitzman looks ahead to this year’s Cancer WALK/RUN, he’s reminded of the advances it makes possible and the reason he chose to become an oncologist. “It’s the nature of cancer that we have good days and sad days in our practice,” he says. “The WALK/RUN is a day we celebrate all of the lives we touch.”