Wayne Phillips

Wayne Phillips

Cancer centre expansion will boost treatment space

Construction of the new Central Alberta Cancer Centre will increase the size of its chemotherapy program, in addition to bringing radiation therapy to Red Deer.

Construction of the new Central Alberta Cancer Centre will increase the size of its chemotherapy program, in addition to bringing radiation therapy to Red Deer.

The $46-million, two-storey facility is scheduled to open in spring 2013 and will be triple the size of the existing centre.

Currently, there are 15 chemotherapy chairs and beds. Five more chemotherapy spaces will be added, plus four more monitoring spaces that could become treatment spaces.

Myrna Kelley, nurse manager at the cancer centre, said the centre moved into its current location in the hospital in December 2005 and was projected to be adequate to 2012.

“There’s lots of days we’re pretty full. (Expansion) is timely,” said Kelley on Wednesday.

She said the number of chemotherapy patients will climb when the centre opens to patients getting both chemotherapy and radiation.

Right now, Central Albertans must go to Edmonton, Calgary or Lethbridge if they require chemotherapy and radiation at the same time.

When chemotherapy is required after radiation is complete or before, chemotherapy can be done in Red Deer.

In 2010, the centre did 2,058 injectable chemotherapy treatments on 378 patients. In 2011, there were 2,544 treatments on 427 patients.

Central Albertans have to go elsewhere for cancer treatment involving the central nervous systems, head or neck, as well as pediatric patients.

Red Deer chemotherapy patient Wayne Phillips said the care at Central Alberta Cancer Centre is the best.

“The staff there is just fantastic. They are very positive and so are all the patients. You talk with each other and build up each other and cheer each other on. You learn from each other,” said Phillips, a Grade 3 teacher at Poplar Ridge Elementary School.

Phillips, 57, of Red Deer, was diagnosed with colon cancer last fall.

He had surgery to remove 30 cm of his colon and began chemotherapy in January.

Before he took a leave of absence in November, he talked to his students about his illness and has maintained contact with them.

“They have actually Skyped me a few times and we’ve been emailing back and forth,” said Phillips, who visited with staff and students at the school on Wednesday.

Recently, students raised $4,000 through school activities for the Central Alberta Cancer Centre.

The money will be used to buy at least one wheelchair, a portable vital signs machine, and an imagery machine to measure oxygen in blood.

Bake sales were held and students had the opportunity to do things they couldn’t normally do, like wear a hat in school, chew gum in class, or attend extra gym classes for a donation to raise money for the cancer centre on behalf of Phillips.

“One of the big things the kids like to do is come into the staff room and eat their lunch in the staff room with the teachers,” said Phillips, who has taught at the school for 20 years.

The school in Chinook’s Edge School Division has 166 students and is located about eight km west of Red Deer.

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com