GREENFIELD — Cancer is ugly. Terri Garcia knows it.
It is a disease that causes cells in the body to grow abnormally, pushing their way into healthy tissue and taking over.
Every type and every case in every patient is different, she said, but it’s always ugly.
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From a medical standpoint, fighting cancer takes rounds of chemotherapy, surgeries, radiation and sometimes a slew of other treatments.
But there is a spiritual aspect to it all, as well, said Garcia, a Greenfield resident who is battling uterine cancer. In her mind, a positive attitude leads to positive results, and the facility where patients receive treatment can have an effect on their attitude.
The doors at Hancock Regional Hospital’s new cancer center opened to the public last month after a year of construction, and patients there, like Garcia, already are noticing a difference.
State-of-the-art equipment coupled with a brighter, more open design help cancer patients feel more optimistic about their diagnosis, no matter how ugly it might be.
Having such a place in their hometown is uplifting, as well, patients said.
While receiving her chemotherapy, Garcia sat on a rooftop terrace, where she could feel the breeze and sunshine, hear the birds and smell the flowers in a nearby garden. She said it’s something she never anticipated after hearing her diagnosis in April.
Once every three weeks since then, Garcia has come to Hancock Regional Hospital for treatments that last about six hours each. She completed three rounds of chemo at the temporary cancer treatment facility in the hospital’s basement and has received two treatments in the newly opened expansion.
The difference between the areas and between the county’s facility and other treatment centers she has been to is striking, Garcia said.
The hospital’s temporary cancer center didn’t have windows, she said, and patients often received their treatments in the same large room, so privacy was hard to come by.
There were the same doctors and nurses, but nothing as cheerful and buoyant as the new facility, she said. And the new addition is head and shoulders above the other hospitals she’s visited, she said.
“This space reflects the spirit that was in the other space,” Garcia said. “… I always leave here feeling positive.”
The Hancock Regional Hospital Board of Trustees began laying out plans to build a new cancer center after IU Health moved its linear accelerator, which is used for radiation therapy, out of the county. This forced patients to travel for treatment, so hospital officials set up a temporary cancer care center in the hospital’s basement until a new facility could be constructed.
Contractors started work in June 2014, and a two-story, 27,000-square-foot building was added to the south end of the hospital campus along East Boyd Avenue in Greenfield.
Since the hospital began offering cancer care in 2013, it has seen more than 600 patients, said Linda Zerr, the cancer center’s director. Officials anticipate that number will grow now that radiation therapy is offered locally.
Donors contributed more than $1.4 million to make the new treatment center a reality.
Nikki DeCoursey of Greenfield, who has Stage IV colon cancer and is being treated there, said such generosity makes cancer patients feel confident their community is supporting them during their fight.
“You kind of feel alone when you get a diagnosis like this,” she said. “It’s good to find out you’re not.”
Hospital officials were hopeful that, by offering a comfortable treatment setting that was close to home, the new center would make cancer patients feel more at ease during their battle.
Robert Grandison, who was diagnosed with lymphoma in February, travels about a half-hour several times a week from Knightstown to receive treatments. His commute is long compared to those of patients like Garcia, who lives within a half-mile of the facility. However, he said he’s thankful Hancock Regional offers cancer care, since the alternative would be driving almost an hour to Indianapolis for chemotherapy.
“I can’t say I’m happy to be here,” Grandison said with a chuckle. “But if I have to, this is a great place to come to.”
DeCoursey said the facility and its staff go a long way to brighten her spirits.
She’s made friends with the nurses there, who tease her and make her laugh, and has formed bonds with other patients, she said.
“You come in the door, and your stress starts to drop … and you don’t go through this without a large degree of stress,” she said. “Sometimes it just gives you hope, and it’s good to have hope.”