Cancer center dedication set for Sept. 19

The ribbon cutting and grand opening ceremony for the Susan P. Wheatlake Regional Cancer Center will take place at 2 p.m. on Sept. 19 at the site. (Herald Review photo/Karin Armbruster)
The ribbon cutting and grand opening ceremony for the Susan P. Wheatlake Regional Cancer Center will take place at 2 p.m. on Sept. 19 at the site. (Herald Review photo/Karin Armbruster)

It’s been a long journey, and now the Susan P. Wheatlake Regional Cancer Center is ready for its grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony.

The event will take place at 2 p.m. on Sept. 19 at the building, located at 4499 220th near Spectrum Health Reed City Hospital. It is open to the public from 4-6 pm and tours of the center will be given after the ribbon cutting.

The $8.9 million center includes a 9,000 square-foot addition off the current Crossroads Radiation Therapy Center as well as a redesign of the former building. New state-of-the-art technology replaced existing technology, and all phases of cancer diagnosis and treatment were brought together under one roof. A linear accelerator, CT simulator, cancer resource center, infusion and chemotherapy department, on-site pharmacy and wellness center are just some of the care the facility provides.

“I’m elated,” Susan P. Wheatlake said. “The center exceeds my expectations and I’m so very proud of everything that has been accomplished. I hope the community will take advantage of this. Then they will understand what people are talking about. It’s a complete picture of care and service.”

Irene Balowski, director of cancer services at the facility, is one of many looking forward to the ceremony.

“It is hard to explain the amount of excitement that I have, because I opened the infusion therapy center here in 1997 and it was just an I.V. cart that you pushed around the room to find a spot,” Balowski said. “So my whole heart and soul is in this building and in this service line that we have. Having all of this under one roof is amazing to me.”

She believes the regional cancer center will be a model for other communities to see what cancer care is and how quality of life can be expanded with a number of services. Also, it will provide cancer patients a sense of security knowing there is a resource close to home.

Wheatlake herself will be in attendance during the ceremony and expects to say a few words of thanks to the community for helping with all aspects of the project.

“This whole regional cancer center was put on by the community. It was planned, organized, designed, built and fundraised by the community. It wasn’t just me that helped make it a reality,” she said. “I’m just a piece of the puzzle.”

Patients, physicians, Spectrum Health officials and community members are expected to take part in the celebration.

Ceremony attendees can expect to feel a calming, welcoming effect when they enter the building to take the tour, Wheatlake said. In addition, physicians, nurses and staff members will be on hand to answer questions and to help showcase the new center. She said she hopes cancer survivors and current patients attend the event to witness the ongoing fight against the disease.

Balowski said people who already have taken small tours of the center have shown a variety of emotions including tears of joy, gratitude and hope. She expects the same after the ribbon cutting event and hopes it brings an awareness of what the facility offers, how much the staff cares about the patients and how much thought they have put into the building to make it the best it can be.

“I hope people go away knowing we have a serious commitment to this community to give really good cancer care and wellness care thereafter,” Balowski added. “We want to be more than just a treatment center, we want to be a wellness center and a prevention center after treatment.”

Improving patients’ quality of life is an important part of the mission of the Susan P. Wheatlake Regional Cancer Center.

“I hope the center is a softener, a refuge not only in the beautiful, calming surroundings, but also in the smiles and special attention of friendly, caring, professional people that make a visit and a treatment a non-threatening and manageable situation,” Wheatlake said. “I would love for people to walk through those doors and feel the way I do when I walk through them.”