On Page Road in Pinehurst just opposite the main hospital is a brand spanking new parking garage. Now normally this would be just so interesting — like if you are looking for a place to park — but this one tells a far bigger story.
FirstHealth is about to break ground for its new Comprehensive Cancer Center, and it is due to open in about 18 months from the day the spade hits the dirt.
I am particularly interested in this project because Darling Husband has been treated for prostate cancer and is now finding some new cells that escaped the first treatment. This place may mean a great deal to us as time goes by.
My twin sister has been treated for bilateral breast cancer, and I had to have a biopsy to rule out an anomaly. My father died of liver cancer, my cousin of breast cancer and my aunt of cervical cancer. My dear friend Bose Obi died of lung cancer a year ago. I have a lot of skin in this game, and my bet is you do too.
I am no doctor, but I am someone who has walked with those whose diagnosis was positive for cancer, so I have seen a lot of ways treatment can not be the best it can be. This center is purpose-built to be the best in our region — maybe the country.
One of the goals is to make everything the patient and caregiver go through as stress-free as possible, from parking your car to signing in, to how you navigate the maze of doctors and finances. FirstHealth is pledging that you will neither feel alone nor be left alone to figure things out.
The comprehensive part of this equation is more than a lovely alliteration; it is a pledge that everything you need will be under one roof. Testing, doctors, staff, infusions, nurses, navigators and support systems that will help you be in the best mental, spiritual and physical health you and your partner/caregiver can be.
On the fourth floor, all manner of support will be at your disposal, from meditation to yoga, nutritional counseling to stress management. Folks will be there to help you navigate finances and help you find the best help you may need outside of medical help. You will not feel adrift on a sea of worry, but rather you will feel as if you have been picked up off the raft of worry and given a berth on a steamer that is set to your personal dock of best outcome and all-around recovery that you and your circumstances can produce. Not many hospitals allot a full floor that will not turn any profit, but the fourth floor is just that. It is a gift to all who are treated and to those who work at the center.
The center will be an open plan with tons of light, places to sit, and gardens that will give every treatment area a sense of life and light. There will be places for kids to be with others who will keep their attention while you have your meeting or treatment, a place they can express their feelings without being told not to feel.
This has been years in the making and years of fundraising, and more is needed because the trials-headed-to-cures go on and because the path toward making all cancers survivable also means more advanced tests and more advanced equipment as time goes on.
I have been meeting doctors and staff who are tied into this major step forward and can only say that I appreciate that Darling Husband and I will no longer go to Duke or Johns Hopkins but will go right up the way to Page Road to get the best possible care.
When you drive by and watch this building going up, think about those for whom you wish this might have come sooner or those for whom this will be a life line. Then think about giving what you can for as long as you can.
I firmly believe that the FirstHealth Comprehensive Cancer Center is about to change the world in treating cancer. I will settle for it just taking care of my beloved and my friends.
I will be out of town on the day the spade goes in the ground, but I will be taking a moment to thank God that here in Moore County we will have first class treatment for both patient and family to walk a difficult path in the sure knowledge that no one will feel alone.
Joyce Reehling lives in Pinehurst. She retired here from New York after a 33-year career in theater, TV and commercials.