Hope is alive and well at the Shaw center in Edwards

John GardnerPost Independent StaffGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent

EDWARDS – Cancer is relentless. So are the medical professionals who dedicate their lives to working with cancer patients.

It takes a unique individual to work with those battling cancer and those succumbing to it. That’s apparent when speaking with nurse practitioner Cathy Mast, of Shaw Regional Cancer Treatment Center in Edwards.”It’s not a job,” she said. “You don’t clock in and out and go home at the end of the day. It’s a lifestyle.”It’s an aspect that isn’t unique to Shaw, it’s part of the profession.”That is the nature of the people who work in oncology,” Mast said. “Usually, when you work in the medical profession, you don’t see your patients all that often. We see our patients every week. We get to know them in a more personal fashion. We become very close.”Jessica McMillan has created a close connection to Mast in the couple of months she’s been going to the Shaw center.”(Mast) is a jewel,” McMillan said. “She gave me her cell phone number while she was on vacation, and I called her every day when she was gone.”And more to the point, Mast answered every time.

“Everyone here knows when they go on vacation that they may be called while they’re gone,” Mast said. “Our patients are living with cancer, so we are living with cancer. We are there for them while they are living with cancer, and it’s important for them to know that there is always someone to call.”Even with a potentially terminal diagnosis, McMillan smiled and remained cheerful the morning of her second chemotherapy treatment at Shaw, not an event where one thinks of rendering a smile.A large contributor to her smile is the staff at Shaw, like Mast, who is McMillan’s nurse. McMillan says it’s their positive attitude that makes all the difference.The center is homey, with its large, log-cabin construction and custom-rock waterfall feature in the reception area. The walls are painted warmly with earth tones, eliminating that cold, clammy, impersonal look of a hospital. It doesn’t have that powdery smell of surgical gloves either. But staff members still use them.There’s even a separate facility called Jack’s Place, available for patients and their families to stay during treatment if need be.Traveling the 40 minutes from Glenwood Springs has become a regular commute for McMillan and her husband, Bruce. Shaw is central command. It’s where she goes through her chemo regimen; it’s where she receives hope.”They take you right to the edge of killing you,” McMillan said as a chemotherapy nurse connected her to an intravenous drip line. “But this is my life juice, it’s what keeps me alive for right now.”

Cathy Mast is a big reason why Jessica has so much hope for her future.”Cancer is a chronic disease, it’s not a death sentence,” Mast said. “When you are diagnosed with the disease it can be a tough thing, but they can live with it over years and years.”Remaining positive is sometimes the best medicine.The evidence is in Jessica’s smile.Contact John Gardner: 384-9114jgardner@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

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