PENDLETON - John Campbell used to have to travel from his home in Condon three hours to Walla Walla every two weeks for his chemotherapy treatment for colon cancer. Now, thanks to a new cancer clinic at St. Anthony Hospital in Pendleton, Campbell's trip has shaved two hours round-trip.

"I got treated well up there at St. Mary's (Medical Center in Walla Walla), but it's a much shorter distance here," Campbell said during a recent radiation treatment at St. Anthony.

St. Anthony opened its new cancer clinic in August after budgeting it into its $17 million remodeling project, which was completed last month, as well as the use of funding from the Donna Bell and Edith Mann Trust. Now, patients from all over Eastern Oregon have a place just a little closer to home to go to for treatments.

"If it's closer to home than Walla Walla, then they come here," said Char Hansen, clinical manager of the nursing department. "There was a lot of public interest in getting it started."

Having a chemotherapy treatment clinic closer to home takes a lot of stress off cancer patients, particularly the elderly ones, who have a hard enough time traveling as it is, Hansen said.

"It's a real hardship for these people to travel that far when they're sick or during the winter," Hansen said. "It's always easier when you don't have to travel another 45 miles."

The clinic, on the first floor of the newly-remodeled hospital, has an oncology doctor from St. Mary Medical Center in Walla Walla contracted to come to the clinic the first and third Wednesdays of the month to treat patients.

Dr. Matthew Sacks has been treating cancer patients and patients with blood diseases since 1975, and said he wanted to come to St. Anthony's new clinic.

"We treat a lot of patients from this area and it was a difficult, long ride to go up to Walla Walla," Sacks said. "For some with just a 15 to 20 minute treatment, it was tough for them to go all the way up there."

Sacks began with five patients on the clinic's first day on Aug. 25, and now has 12 patients at St. Anthony, and the list is growing.

"We take everybody if they either have a diagnosis of cancer or blood disease," Sacks said. And those people come from all over, from Condon to Hermiston, Pendleton to Wallowa.

Soon, another oncologist will join Sacks at the clinic, Dr. Bob Quackenbush, also of St. Mary Medical Center. Should demand call for it, Quackenbush may see patients at the clinic on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month, while Sacks takes the other two Wednesdays.

"If the practice calls for it, we'll see people more often," Sacks said. "In this business, you develop a rapport with the patients fairly quickly because of the nature of the diagnosis."

Besides Sacks, a certified nursing assistant works in the clinic. Hansen said if more patients begin to use the center, more nurses will be placed there as well to deal with the caseload. Each nurse must be certified to give chemotherapy treatments.

So far, patients don't have many complaints about St. Anthony's new clinic.

"St. Anthony is like home to us," said Campbell's wife of 53 years, Mary. "We had babies here, other treatments here."

The only complaint on the first day, said hospital Communications Director Staci Buchanan, was that the visitor's chairs for non-patients were not comfortable enough, especially after waiting during a four-hour treatment like Campbell's.

"We reordered the visitor's chairs based on comfortability," Buchanan said. "After people sat in them for a long period of time the first week, we had to reorder because they said they weren't comfortable enough."

However, the chairs patients sit in during treatments are anything but uncomfortable. Cushiony recliners mold to the patient's body, making a somewhat uncomfortable situation more bearable. Patients also have individual television monitors with a full array of cable stations to listen to on headphones.

"They treat me well here," Campbell said.

Until Quackenbush starts working at the clinic, and it is not known when he will, the clinic will be open by appointment the first and third Wednesdays of each month. To make an appointment or for more information, contact the hospital at 276-5121.

The hospital also holds an informal cancer survival lunch group the second Tuesday of every month from 1-2 p.m. for patients who have just received a cancer diagnosis, those in the midst of treatment or have completed treatment. Lunch is provided. For more information, contact June Mohrland at 278-3218 or evenings at 276-7145.

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