REED CITY — It isn’t every day that the first word uttered after “cancer” would be “celebration” — but ask a strong survivor of the dreaded disease and you may find someone who has found a way to seek out the ray of sunshine at the end of a dark path.
For many families in the area ravaged by cancer, over the last five years that ray of sunshine has been the Susan P. Wheatlake Regional Cancer Center.
In Reed City Wednesday evening, a combination of curious neighbors, patients, survivors and healthcare providers came to see for themselves exactly how this small-town facility has found success.
The cancer center held a five-year anniversary celebration, showing attendees how this successful small-town formula made up of vision, hard work and excellent healthcare providers far from the bright lights of a bigger city found, in fact, plenty worth celebrating.
Just ask the facility’s namesake, Susan Wheatlake, who was on hand to celebrate, remember and reflect.
“When we opened our doors, I was just completing treatment and hoping my hair may return,” recalls Wheatlake. “And now, it seems like every day someone stops me and shares their cancer story with me, and remarks at how grateful they were to have access to these facilities and treatment close to home,” she said. “It is that sort of thing that is the real victory.”
At the five-year celebration, Wheatlake was far from alone in her pride and joy for how the center has helped so many, even beyond the chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer patients.
The programs, from counseling to health-centered education, family support and other services help guide families through the cancer process, from diagnosis to treatment and beyond.
And the results of the area population helped by the programs encourage those dedicated to continue growing and thriving.
Since opening in 2013, the Susan Wheatlake Cancer Center has assisted residents in 35 percent of the counties in Michigan.
Despite the centralized location of the center, transportation can be a struggle for many, and in the last five years thanks to sponsors and generous community support, more than 385 gas cards have been given to patients and families needing transportation assistance.
And with the ever-expanding facility services ranging from nutrition therapy to a social work support, financial counseling and beyond, Wheatlake said the center’s staff, and the community that has supported them, can be proud of the more than 12,000 patient visits per year, as they are getting high-quality care in a small community with a big heart.
“This is a place people are proud to have in their backyard,” noted Wheatlake. “And I am honored to be a part of the mission of it.”