Gateway Gazette

High River Community Cancer Centre Expansion

Story by Kerri Robins; Photo by Lisa Sutherland

img-high-river-cancer - Scott ForbesWhen 63-year-old high school teacher Scott Forbes learned he had incurable stage four colon cancer in April 2011, he buckled down with a ‘can do’ attitude and faced his impending treatment full on.

“It’s really just the power of positive thinking to get through this,” says Forbes. “One of the best things going for me is that I’ve been able to have the majority of my treatment in High River where I live.”

Forbes is treated at the High River Community Cancer Centre, a small clinic within the High River General Hospital.

But that is changing and the clinic is on the verge of expansion and renovation when construction starts in February. Fundraising for the $1.6 million project began in 2013 and is the result of community efforts by the High River District Health Care Foundation, supported by the Rotary Club of High River.

A satellite clinic to the Tom Baker Cancer Centre, the current space is almost 400 sq.-ft., and accommodates five patients and equipment at a time. The clinic provides approximately 120 patient procedures a month.

Renovations will see the walls knocked down in this area and a number of former offices expanded to 2,100 sq. ft. The new space aims to create a more comforting and welcoming treatment area that will accommodate future growth.

While patients will still visit the Tom Baker Cancer Centre for oncologist care to develop their treatment plan, they can have their cancer treatment in High River.

The cancer centre has been part of a pilot program for rural Alberta since 1998, and the expanded cancer centre is another step forward in continuing the enhanced care that follows a patient-friendly philosophy − ‘closer to home’ − for many Albertans living south of Calgary.

“With the exception of radiation, we follow our patients’ full treatment plan from the moment they walk in the door – for instance, chemotherapy, symptom management, transfusions, monitoring blood levels, follow-up visits and IV fluids,” says Kim Lush, Charge Nurse, Cancer Clinic, at the hospital.

“The personal touch at the centre is priceless,” continues Forbes. “I’ve always felt such great vibes from a really caring group of staff, and I’ve made friends with other people with cancer within a sort of informal support system at the clinic – and the coffee is always on.”

Michael Brown, Executive Director of the High River District Health Care Foundation and Ralph Nelson, President of the Rotary Club in High River are both overwhelmed by the generosity of the people in the surrounding foothills communities and glad to see construction underway.

“A lot of people from a lot of communities have worked very hard for the past two years to raise the funds needed for this project. We can’t thank them enough,” says Brown.

Nelson agrees. “Many of us have a personal connection to cancer in some way, and cancer treatment is a commitment of a lot of time – from family, friends and employers. It’s fabulous to be part of this great initiative and give more people access to cancer care in their community.”

As for Forbes, “I’m happy to get this construction underway.”

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