Walk into The 11 Day Power Play Cancer Resource Center, next to the elevator banks on the first floor of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center’s main hospital, and feel transported to a calming, welcoming place where patients and their caregivers can catch their breath.
“The Resource Center is a soft place to land after a cancer diagnosis,” says Martha Hickey, the center’s manager. “It’s a place to come and learn more about your cancer, all the support programs Roswell Park offers and to learn your way around campus. Navigating your cancer care is made easier if you come to the Resource Center early on in your journey so we can help you pave your way through your diagnosis, treatment and into survivorship.”
Staffed by Hickey, Resource Center Coordinators Sara Sade, Alicia Larson, Megan Sanz and Katie Kraft, along with a team of 20 dedicated volunteers, the Resource Center team recognizes that comprehensive care starts with compassionate listening in a supportive environment. In addition to the downtown location, there are two Roswell Park Care Network Resource Centers, overseen by Senior Coordinator Rebecca Colville with the support of Theresa Bonito and Karen Reisch, for patients who utilize the Northtowns and Southtowns locations.
“There is so much information for patients to navigate after a diagnosis. We can help them figure out where to start,” Hickey says. “We sit down, one-on-one with patients and their caregivers, and allow them to share their concerns with us. Then we provide customized patient education, resources and suggestions on integrative therapies. These tools allow patients to exhale and feel better prepared to embark on their journey with confidence, knowing they have the Resource Center as a trusted place to find guidance.”
New location means more services
Hickey has been with the Resource Center for nearly six years. Early on, she had a vision for moving the center from its old location, tucked inside the cafeteria, into a space that was bright, airy, comforting and, most importantly, highly visible and accessible. That vision came true when the new location opened in September 2022, thanks to generous donations from The 11 Day Power Play, the Buffalo Sabres, the West Herr Automotive Group, Michael and Michelle Gacioch and The Zeron Foundation.
“We have only just scratched the surface of the programming we’ll be able to offer to support patients through their journeys, thanks to the larger space and the generosity of donors to the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation,” she says. “We have an oncology massage program, in which specially trained oncology massage therapists come in regularly to provide services to our patients, right here in the Resource Center. The massage therapists take into account a patient’s port, lymphedema and any other health concerns. Our oncology massage therapists are sensitive to patients’ needs and they infuse them with encouragement and hope.”
Every Thursday, the Resource Center offers Reiki, provided by Reiki masters. Reiki is a Japanese relaxation technique that aims to harmonize the body, mind and spirit and can help to alleviate anxiety and pain.
Another recent addition is an eyebrow class, provided by Kristine Koch of Nickel City Skin Spa + Boutique. “The ladies who participate get stencils, brushes, and color palettes. Kristine guides patients with simple, yet detailed and easy-to-follow instructions for natural-looking eyebrows that flatter and frame the face.”
Other programs and offerings are in the works, including a series of speakers who will provide information on topics ranging from money matters to journaling to ways families can talk to their children about a diagnosis. Other topics include the importance of good nutrition and sleep during treatment. The series will provide both in-person and virtual access to these conversations, in addition to creating a video library to offer access to those who cannot attend in real-time.
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View our full list of support events taking place in The 11 Day Power Play Cancer Resource Center.Learn more
The Resource Center also operates the Elevate Salon, located on the first floor of the Clinical Sciences Center, near the breast cancer clinic. “Appointments are encouraged in the salon so we can take the time to talk with our patients and find the right wig or head covering,” Hickey says. “Our compassionate staff, volunteers and stylists offer personalized wig fittings and styling appointments to make our patients look their best. Our strong and courageous patients deserve this level of attention.”
Sanz works closely with patients in the salon. “I love working in the salon and helping patients feel a little more like themselves again,” she says. “Patients are often unfamiliar with wigs when coming to see us and this can feel intimidating. I love when they recognize that these aren’t their grandmother’s wigs and that our wigs can be fun and beautiful. Sometimes patients even say that our wigs are better than their own hair.”
The Resource Center cares for caregivers, too. “Caregiving can take a toll on loved ones,” explains Hickey. “Our programming is always extended to caregivers who might like a massage, need a listening ear or connections to trusted resources.”
In-patients can also benefit from the Resource Center’s lending library of audiobooks, DVDs, sound machines and iPads, in addition to comfort items like blankets, stress balls and cell phone chargers. Thanks to a partnership with Roswell Park’s Creative Arts Team, patients also have access to acrylic and watercolor paint kits and coloring books to help occupy their time.
Centered on support
Sade knows first-hand how important and useful the Resource Center can be to patients. When she went through her first battle with cancer, she didn’t know the Resource Center was there to help her navigate her care; now as a Resource Center employee, she wants to make sure everyone accesses and takes advantage of the services it provides.
“Ultimately, I have a burning desire to make sure patients know we’re here and that no one goes through treatment without this support,” she says.
“When people stop in and say they’re trying to find where something is, I’ll help them find it. The Resource Center is such a wonderful place, even if you just want a quiet place to sit. We’re here to support them, whatever we can do to fill the gaps. As a comprehensive cancer center, patients come here for great medical care, but we want to take care of the whole person.”
For Larson, the best part of her job is being able to help others through a difficult time, as she has experienced. “I lost both of my parents to cancer and working here, spending my days helping people who are in the thick of what we went through is incredibly cathartic and meaningful,” she says. “There’s nothing better than knowing that you’ve made even just a small positive impact on a person’s life.”
Kraft agrees. “I joined the team just a few weeks ago and I am so grateful for the opportunity to brighten our patients’ days.”
Programming in all locations is generously supported by donor dollars through the Quality-of-Life Program.