Today's Cancer Care
By Kimberly Carlisle
Developing a New Vision of Wellness
Tentatively, Michelle takes a purple lead rope in her outstretched hand. She lifts her eyes from the sand floor of the small arena to look into the eyes of what is attached to the other end: a 1,000-pound horse, still and watching, waiting for her cue.
”Make a connection,” the group’s leader suggests. Michelle exhales and takes a step forward. The horse backs up in equal measure.
“Soften, Michelle.” She lets her hand drop, still lightly holding the rope, and takes another step. The horse holds his ground.
“Now, breathe.” Both Michelle and the horse exhale, and the gelding lowers his head. She reaches a hand to his neck. At the touch of the horse’s warm, smooth coat, the tension on Michelle’s face is broken by a huge smile.
This isn’t what cancer recovery used to look like. But now, in addition to advances in surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, a multidisciplinary array of services is populating the cancer care spectrum. At Sutter Health affiliates in the West Bay Region (from San Francisco to Lake County), equine therapy, guided imagery, genetic counseling, nutrition, meditation, massage, support groups, retreats and more offer cancer patients a holistic approach to healing beyond what chemotherapy and radiation can do for them.
“The great news is that cancer is now viewed as curable, treatable or chronic,” says Cindi Cantril, R.N., Director of Oncology Service Line for Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa. “And because practitioners regularly collaborate in cancer treatment, the field is open to integrating new disciplines. Cancer is becoming a model for other illnesses in returning a patient to health."
In the early 1900s, few cancer patients had any hope of long-term survival. In the 1930s, less than one in five was alive five years after treatment. In the 1940s it was one in four, and in the 1960s it was one in three. In 2012, more than three out of five cancer patients were predicted to live five years after diagnosis and treatment.
But even when free of cancer, “patients often have an overwhelming feeling of now what?’” says Daniel Agredano, chairman of CPMC’s Cancer Survivorship Conference. The conference covers the physical, psychosocial and emotional aspects of surviving cancer, and offers patients the chance to hear from others who have survived cancer and how it affected their lives. More than 60 survivors attended last year.
“Cancer is often feared more than any other disease,” adds Susie Laurenson Shipley, Regional Manager of the Institute for Health and Healing, under whose guidance many of the cancer support services are offered. “A cancer diagnosis often invokes a sense of ‘I need to change my life.’ It knocks down a resistance pattern to shifts in lifestyle, attitude and spirituality."
There is also a uniquely collaborative environment among leadership and practitioners in the Sutter Health network, especially the West Bay Region, which particularly fosters this kind of innovation. And across the board, philanthropy – from individual donors to corporations and foundations – plays a significant role in making these programs possible. More than $1.5 million was gifted to the region for cancer care in 2012 alone.
“Our patients appropriately expect state-of-the-art care, with the most up-to-date diagnostic and therapeutic skills,” says Senior Vice President of Education, Research, and Philanthropy for Sutter Health Martin Brotman, M.D. “They also expect and need what I call the ‘art’ of medicine – care consistently delivered with affection, compassion and sensitivity to their fears and their vulnerability. They want to be cared for as a whole person with a health problem, not as a disease. Our exceptional caregivers understand this, and respond with their skills and their hearts.
Our generous donors ensure that this special care is available to all in need.
Cancer patients and their families will find a rich menu of programs throughout San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma and Lake Counties that offer a new approach to lifelong wellness.
“We complement technological currency and scientific expertise with compassionate care, warmth, empathy and a gentle touch,” says William Stewart, M.D., Medical Director of the Institute for Health & Healing. “This humanizes and personalizes the contemporary biotechnical experience of the patient.”
“The way cancer is treated – the burning and destruction of cells is hard on the body – lends itself to simultaneously needing the antithesis – soft medicine,” adds Michelle, still soothed by her session with the horse. “These programs help me navigate a new landscape of myriad choices in care, and offer a safe place to ask ‘How do I live? How do I count in my new life?’”
Where to Get Care
Cancer Care Patient Services
CPMC San Francisco
- Cancer Care Center/ Infusion Services
- Notkin Family Breast Cancer Recovery Program
- Cancer Patient Information, Navigation Services, and Survivorship Program
- Cancer Genetic Risk Assessment and Counseling
- Radiation Oncology
- Community Health Resource Center
- Institute for Health & Healing
- Women's Health Resource Center
- CPMCRI Clinical Trials in Oncology
Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation, Marin, Sonoma & Lake Counties
- Medical Foundation/ Greenbrae Institute for Health & Healing
- Novato Community Hospital Institute for Health & Healing (in-hospital massage)
415-209-1437 ext. 2
- Sutter Lakeside Medical Foundation/ Women's Health Imaging Services
(707) 262-5030 13
- Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa and Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation
- Infusion Therapy & Patient Navigation
- Institute for Health & Healing
- The Women's Health Resource Center and Breast Care Center
How to Give
- San Francisco and Bay Area
Novato Community Hospital
- Santa Rosa
Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa and Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation
- Lake County
Sutter Lakeside Hospital Foundation