Drew Memorial Hospital’s new cancer center is providing services to treat Southeast Arkansas cancer patients’ physical and emotional needs.

Since it opened in May 2012, the center has seen more than 100 patients, eliminating those torturous car rides to Little Rock or Pine Bluff to undergo chemotherapy treatments.

Having a cancer center in Southeast Arkansas reduces travel time for cancer patients who are very sick after their treatments. “We’ve had patients who started with an oncologist in Little Rock and decided the trip was too much for them,” said Amy White, a registered nurse at the clinic.

“Our doctor worked with their doctor and they transferred down here,” White said. “They still see their doctor but they also see our doctor so he can oversee their care here.”

Drew Memorial partnered with CARTI (Central Arkansas Radiation Therapy Institute) to provide cancer care and treatment in Monticello. Dr. Bijay Nair, a CARTI oncologist, is at Drew Memorial’s cancer center every Thursday.

Negative pressure room where chemotherapy is mixed in a chemo prep hood

RN Amy White arranges supplies in an intake room

To address patients’ emotional needs, Drew Memorial’s cancer center has monthly support group meetings that are open to any cancer patient regardless of where they are receiving their treatment. There is no charge to attend the meetings.

“We have lots of people who come to our support group meetings who are not receiving their treatment here,” said clinic manager Brady McDuffie. “I think that’s important because it creates a network of support.”

And it’s not just for cancer patients. Other people who are affected by cancer, including cancer survivors, caretakers and those who have lost loved ones to the disease are also welcome. Many times the patients will bring their caregivers and supporters with them to the meetings, McDuffie said.

Conference room where support group meetings are held

“It’s such a big need here that we felt like we would be doing a disservice if we didn’t offer a forum for people to get together, meet each other and share experiences,” she said.

The group focuses on a variety of topics such as good nutrition, exercise, relaxation techniques, laughter therapy, music therapy, art therapy, and memory problems associated with chemotherapy. But, everyone’s favorite is survivor stories, McDuffie said.

The support group meets for lunch every third Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Lunch is provided.

The cancer center will soon implement the American Cancer Society’s “Look Good… Feel Better” program, a program that teaches beauty techniques to women in active treatment to help them combat the appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment.

In these sessions, a local beauty professional trained in “Look Good… Feel Better” techniques will teach women how to cope with skin changes and hair loss using cosmetic and skin care products donated by the cosmetic industry. Women also learn ways to cope with hair loss with the use of wigs, scarves and other accessories.

The cancer center is located in Drew Memorial Hospital’s Allied Health Building adjacent to the hospital on Scogin Drive in Monticello.