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CaroMont Cancer Center Ringing In A New Beginning


Sometimes, when good news is at hand, you just need to make a little noise. That’s exactly what Micki Pettit did in July when she rang the large bell, stationed inside The CaroMont Health Comprehensive Cancer Center, upon completion of her radiation treatments for breast cancer. Cheers and applause could be heard from across the department.

“It’s a big deal to me,” said Pettit. “When you have to go through something like that, it’s a great feeling to know you’ve been able to complete it.The treatments are behind me now and the prognosis is good,” said the mother of three.

The 7-inch, silver-plated brass captains’ bell hangs in the middle of the cancer center; purposefully placed so that center staff can gather around the patient and family members to celebrate.

“We wanted to come up with a signifying event for the patient recognizing that she or he is a survivor now; a person that is moving on with his or her life,” said Rick Varterasian, Oncology Service Line Director with the Cancer Center.

Cancer treatments are intensive and can last for months. In the case of managing breast cancer, surgery always plays a role, according to radiation oncologist Dr. Robert “Bo” Doline. After surgery, decisions are made as to how to include chemotherapy and radiation in the patient’s treatment. For Pettit, who was diagnosed in November of 2010, all three were employed.

“The hardest part [of radiation treatments] for me was to go there every day, spend time out of every day, Monday through Friday for seven weeks,” said Pettit. “It’s nice to have something to look forward to that’s symbolic of the end of your treatment.”

While the bell was installed for the patients, the program is also valuable to staff, said Doline. “These are radiation therapists, nurses, and physicians who are seeing these patients for six to eight weeks. That’s a lot of time to develop real relationships; it’s gratifying to see them complete their treatment.”

Radiation treatments are generally not painful and take about 15 minutes for each session. Side effects including redness, tenderness and fatigue can occur.

“They’re all very caring people,” said Pettit of the Cancer Center’s staff whom she says made the sessions as enjoyable as possible. “I feel blessed to have known them; I got friendships out of it.”

Doline touts the staff as being very well trained, compassionate and friendly. “We don’t just treat the patient’s cancer; we treat the patient, addressing their physical, psychology and spiritual needs.” The center utilizes an integrative approach, employing nutrition, massage therapy and Reiki, as well as traditional medicine . Doline heads the Southeast Radiation Oncology Group, which has its main offices at CaroMont Regional Medical Center.

“We’re always looking for ways to enhance our patient experience,” said Varterasian, who says the idea for the bell ringing tradition came out of the Center’s Patient Satisfaction Committee, which consists of a cross section of people, including physicians, who meet monthly.

Doline said the bell offers patients a sense of closure. “We’re not just handing out a follow-up card. It’s a new beginning.”
“I’m honored to be the first person to ring the bell,” said Pettit. “And it’s great to be done.” In the weeks since Pettit completed her treatments, 14 other patients have rung the bell.

Other news for CaroMont Health came in the recent announcement that it has received a full, three-year accreditation with Commendation Level status from the Commission on Cancer. “We were evaluated on 36 different standards and met each one with zero deficiencies,” said Varterasian.

Commendation Level status qualifies CaroMont Health to be considered for the Outstanding Achievement Award, the very highest national recognition given by the Commission on Cancer. CaroMont Health has been a recipient of the award for the past two years. “This is a real tribute to the quality of care provided and the ongoing hard work of our cancer program physicians and staff,” says Varterasian. Only a quarter of all cancer programs in the United States carry Commission on Cancer accreditation.
The Commission on Cancer was established by the American College of Surgeons in 1922 to ensure quality, multidisciplinary, and comprehensive cancer care delivery in health care settings.

CaroMont Health diagnosed more than 1,000 cancer cases in 2010.

By: Zenda Douglas
2011-09-19 09:05:18

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