JRMC Cancer Center staff become part of a family to patients
The JRMC Cancer Center, which was fully funded by donors in the community, started seeing patients in June 2019.
JAMESTOWN — The staff at Jamestown Regional Medical Center’s cancer center become a part of a family to patients who get treatment there, according to Marie Olson, the latest cancer center graduate from Montpelier, North Dakota.
“I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” Olson said. “They were all so kind.”
Laura Bond, an oncology nurse practitioner at JRMC, said the JRMC Cancer Center staff sees patients so often and will build relationships with their family as well.
“I think that is huge in their treatment,” she said. “They come in and want to know about our life. They want to know what is going on with us too.”
Mike Delfs, JRMC president and CEO, said the staff is one of the largest contributors to the success of the cancer center. He said the staff connect with the patients and families.
“Then you build that level of trust especially in cancer diagnosis,” he said. “I would say a patients’ feeling of satisfaction and trust is really greatly enhanced by the fact that we have really well-trained staff and it’s the same staff. You see the same people. Whoever cared for you on Monday is the same person who is going to care for you on a Wednesday.”
Bond said cancer has touched her life personally and that is why she is in a profession that gives back to the community. Her husband had battled acute myeloid leukemia.
“During that time the community gave us so much when Josh was sick,” she said.
She said the people who come to the cancer center are true warriors who still come with a smile on their face even though they are dealing with some bad news.
“We are along to fight with them through their journey,” she said.
The JRMC Cancer Center, which was fully funded by donors in the community, started seeing patients in June 2019. It includes two exam rooms and six infusion rooms.
Since the cancer center opened, 18 people have rang the bell to mark the end of their treatments. The cancer center has served 56 communities and helped save patients and their families 500,000 miles of travel.
Olson had her colon cancer diagnosis in October 2021 and was able to ring the bell in July. She said she received her last round of chemotherapy in June but she waited to ring the bell until she got the results of her follow-up test. She said 10 of her 12 chemotherapy treatments were done at JRMC.
“I felt good all the way through this and had energy,” she said.
Olson said her husband was allowed to be in the same room when she was getting her treatments at JRMC Cancer Center. In Fargo, her husband was not allowed in the same room.
Delfs said each infusion room has a large window that helps with the healing process too. Although the rooms are separate, if people are on the same schedule, a divider in the center of the two rooms can be opened so patients can talk to each other.
Kari Smith of Carrington, North Dakota, was the first graduate of the cancer center. She was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in April 2019.
“It was a relief to be done and ready to move on,” she said about ringing the bell at the cancer center.
She said she did her final two chemotherapy treatments at JRMC Cancer Center because it didn’t open until the summer of 2019. She had done her previous six chemotherapy treatments, which did not include radiation, in Fargo.
She said she received great care even though it was a much smaller setting, which was relaxing compared to a larger facility with more people coming in and out.
“You are still getting great care there, and the nurses there are great,” she said. “Even when I go for checkups the nurses are all very friendly and accommodating.”
The JRMC Cancer Center has helped people from as far as Ellendale or Minnewauken among the 56 communities it has served.
“That’s over a half million miles saved for those patients,” Delfs said. “One of the things that means for those patients is that they have the ability to continue to have their regular life in addition to the cancer treatments.”
When Smith did her treatments in Fargo, she said her husband or friends rotated to take her. But going from Carrington to Fargo was a time commitment for her husband and friends.
“Of course my friends were very gracious in helping,” she said. “It was still a full day.”
Smith said if the cancer center would have been available in Jamestown, she would have done all her treatments there.
“I probably could have went to Jamestown by myself and not needed anyone to go with me,” she said. “The travel to Fargo, you never know on the way back if you don’t feel good.”
Olson said JRMC Cancer Center saved many miles for her and her husband, Don, who always drove.
Bond said gas cards, which are made possible by the Barb and Curt Togstad Continuing Aiding Recipients by Cancer Evermore Endowment Fund at JRMC, help new patients with travel costs.
Patients are also given a bag full full of items, which are donated to JRMC, that they can bring with to their treatments, she said.
“Sometimes that’s the highlight of their day,” she said. “It’s a stressful day. The unknown, everybody gets here, and they are all anxious.”
JRMC’s Driven to Care program is also a great option for the community, Bond said. The program provides transportation to JRMC patients who need a ride home or to a doctor appointment in Jamestown or the surrounding area up to 95 miles, according to JRMC’s website.
The website states Driven to Care can offset the cost of existing transportation options like the transit bus and taxi services, and if those services are not available, volunteer drivers are assigned to the patient.
Delfs said JRMC is grateful for its partnership with Sanford Health.
“We end up with care protocols, policies and procedures that come from a large system that sees far more patients than what we see here,” he said. “We have nothing but confidence in our ability to care because we have this huge sort of backlog of places we can go to for information.”
He said the JRMC Board of Directors had a great idea to get a cancer center in Jamestown. He said it is unusual to have a cancer center in a smaller community the size of Jamestown. He also said it is unusual to have a partnership with larger entities such as Sanford.
“Our model is not the usual model,” he said.