hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

November 14, 2013

Cancer center close to home a welcome change

The Haverhill Gazette

---- — Having cancer is bad enough.

Fatigue, both physical and emotional, set in.

Patients worry about their families, their jobs, their future — whether there will be much of one at all.

They worry about their ability to live.

The last thing they need is tiring, long trips to meetings with doctors to plan a potential life-saving strategy.

Even worse can be long drives to get treatments, long trips for relatives to visit the patient during hospital stays.

It used to be that the only option was to take those trips to doctors and hospitals in Boston. That was the only place to sit down with an expert on the disease affecting you and get the guidance you needed, followed by treatments there as well.

But as with most things, times have changed in the world of cancer treatment, and the news is good for local people.

Now, they can meet with doctors practically in their back yard and get treatments nearby as well.

Haverhill’s Merrimack Valley Hospital is opening a cancer center where patients and their families can meet with doctors to plan their treatments. (See story, Page 1.)

Patients from Haverhill and neighboring towns, and their loved ones, can drive just a few minutes and be close to home as they meet with doctors. No waiting in long lines of Boston traffic. No trips of an hour or more each way.

When the strategy is mapped out and it’s time for treatments, again the trip is short — just a few miles away to Merrimack Valley Hospital’s sister health care facility, Holy Family Hospital in Methuen.

The doctors at the new center in Haverhill are affiliated with both hospitals and their staffs.

As Lester Schindel, director of both hospitals, put it, travel should not be an issue for people who are potentially fighting for their lives.

“When it comes to health and wellness, we want anyone needing cancer care to focus on their treatment and recovery, not travel,” Schindel said. “And we want them to have access to world-class care right in their own community.

“Our hospitals have the unique opportunity to work together,’’ he said.

Of course, if a patient prefers to use a Boston hospital, they should. They should go where they are most comfortable.

But it’s nice to have an option, right here close to home.