When you hear the doctor say “cancer” and the world drops out from under your feet, there are people inside an unassuming little office in Cameron Park waiting to break your fall.
The staff at Marshall Medical Center’s Cancer Resource Center wishes more people in need knew they are waiting with open arms and plenty of knowledge to help those diagnosed with cancer get through the ordeal with as little pain as possible — mentally, physically and economically.
“Many of the people who come in after having been diagnosed say they wish they had known earlier that we were here,” said Cancer Resource Center Director Wendy Goossen. “Most cancer patients don’t realize that they don’t have to be treated at Marshall in order to come here for the help we offer.”
“Here” is 3581 Palmer Drive, Suite 202, in Cameron Park. The office, tucked into Marshall’s sprawling complex of other medical specialties, opens up into a bright and airy front space filled with shelves of pamphlets and booklets regarding cancer treatment and care.
A photo of a virtually brand-new Chevy HHR donated by Thompson’s Auto Group in Placerville graces one wall in the greeting room.
“Ron Thompson (auto dealership owner) believes in our mission of helping local cancer patients and so donated the car, which we use to take patients to appointments and for treatments,” said Goossen, 64, who was recruited by Marshall in 2011 to run the resource center. “We’ve found that once the community comes to understand that we are here and what we have to offer, we can better help those in need.
“My job is to get the word out,” Goossen said.
Goossen has helped cancer patients for 14 years, working in Salinas before coming back to El Dorado County, where she had lived previously for 21 years.
“It really was like coming back home,” she said.
Goossen runs a center that employs seven and also enjoys the help of five volunteers.
An artist herself, Goossen is happy to offer art therapy as part of the services at the Cancer Resource Center, which also helps patients through yoga and meditation.
A year-round program titled Images of Hope raises money to help support the center’s operation, with volunteers such as Lee Turner who offers “honey-do” chores at a minimal cost.
“There are little angels in our community and Lee Turner is one of them,” Goossen said. “He’ll do all kinds of chores for about $10 an hour, and then he donates the bulk of that money to the Cancer Resource Center.”
Goossen said the center also is grateful for the efforts of the Threads of Life benefit that every other year holds a quilt and fine art auction to support the center.
This year’s event will be from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 17, at the gorgeous Shadowridge Ranch at 3700 Fort Jim Road just southeast of Placerville. Call 530-622-1121 for more information.
Threads of Life has raised about $47,000 since 2007 for the Cancer Resource Center, and Goossen said those at the center appreciate the help.
“Without the support of the community, we wouldn’t be able to do half of what we do,” she said.
Whereas years ago those diagnosed with breast cancer and other forms of the disease relied primarily on support groups, the Cancer Resource Center can help with survivorship programs and mentorships where patients are put into contact with those in similar straits, where support and camaraderie are at the forefront.
The art, yoga and meditation therapies offered at the center also help immensely, Goossen added — but it all costs money. And while insurance helps with much of the costs, there are patients who have no medical insurance and no financial means of paying for their care.
“We offer scholarship support for those who can’t afford it,” the director said. “We are absolutely here to help.”
Goossen showed the Mountain Democrat one of the features of the center, the “Look Good, Feel Better” room where dozens of wigs, scarves and hats are available free of charge to help women undergoing chemotherapy in coping with some of the side-effects, such as hair loss. A pretty nylon bag with $350 in makeup, also free, accompanies patients as they leave.
“It’s really great to have them walk out of here with their femininity back in place and a big smile on their face,” said the director. “My passion is in getting people to understand that the center isn’t just a library. I want to see them walk in the front door and let us help.”
In addition to Goossen’s obvious dedication to aiding those diagnosed with cancer, she is pleased to be helped by an equally dedicated staff, which includes a social worker, two patient navigators who work with participants throughout the rigors of dealing with cancer and even a nutritionist.
One of the patient navigators at the center is Susan Ward-Baldwin, 65, of Placerville who recounted the case of a Cameron Park woman in her mid-70s who has been helped by the center.
“She lives alone, she doesn’t drive and her only relative locally works, so we’ve been guiding her through her diagnosis and treatment by taking her to doctors’ appointments and helping her work through insurance issues,” said Ward-Baldwin.
“She also had some dental issues that we helped with, because some of the treatments are impacting her teeth. She needed a lot of general support and we’ve been privileged to do that.”
That woman has been under the support system of the center for about eight months now, the patient navigator added.
“She tells us that she is blessed to have us in her life, and when we began with her, she was all doom and gloom,” Ward-Baldwin recalled.
“Without Threads of Life, we wouldn’t be able to do that,” said Goossen as she listened to her colleague.
Center social worker Cheryl Purgett explained more of the help available at the center, saying she had just gotten off the phone with a patient she was able to serve.
“I told the gentleman about another man with the same kind of cancer and I was able to put them in touch with one another,” said Purgett, 63, of Placerville. “It helps when we can connect with those diagnosed with cancer early so that they don’t feel quite so alone and lost at sea.”
“It really does take a village,” said Director Goossen as she spoke again of her appreciation of the community’s support.
Marshall Medical Center’s Cancer Resource Center has been in existence since 2004 and in its current location since 2011. Call 530-672-7050 or 530-672-7055 for more information. Reach out to willing hands.