Providing creative comfort at Calaway Young Cancer Center in Glenwood Springs

Cancer center offers integrated therapy, holistic options to help supplement traditional care

Cancer survivor Rosie McSwain speaks with Calaway-Young Cancer Center doctor Dr. Donovan at Valley View Hospital.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

For 10 years, the Calaway Young Cancer Center located in Valley View Hospital has been practicing medicine a little differently.

“It’s pretty amazing, the whole process,” said Rosie McSwain, an 84 year old patient who recently stopped chemotherapy because she is getting better. “It’s comfortable, the minute you walk in the door, when they park your car, and you come up on the elevator to register.”

The cancer center opened in 2012 as a branch of Valley View Hospital, which brings state-of-the art comprehensive cancer care services including a radiation treatment program to Glenwood Springs and the region. 

It is named after Jim and Connie Calaway and Bob Young who together donated $4 million to help with initial construction. 

Cancer is an age-old disease that humans have spent centuries seeking suitable treatment for, and the cancer center focuses on integrated treatment. The most scientifically proven treatment has been chemotherapy, but it is also an extremely painful form of treatment. Integrated therapy is a way to individualize therapy and give the patient quality of life while helping them to heal in multiple ways. 

Not all hospitals offer such holistic approaches with their treatment. 

“We just accepted that we’re gonna have these programs for patients because it improves your quality of life, and we’re gonna figure out how to fund it.” Radiation Oncologist Dr. Peter Rossi said. “And so it’s not a financial burden on the patient, either.” 

Calaway-Young Cancer Center Radiation Oncologist Dr. Peter Rossi speaks with a patient at Valley View Hospital.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

He explained how many hospitals want to offer dual treatment like this but aren’t able to find ways to fund it. The Calaway center has made it a priority and found avenues through nonprofit and community events like Rally the Valley, which ended this year.

With the end of the event comes new beginnings. The Valley View Foundation is building an $8 million endowment to provide earnings to benefit cancer patients of the Calaway Young Cancer Center in perpetuity, which started with a recent anonymous $2 million gift.

“These are all supported and provided free to patients,” he said. “When we do fundraising to provide this, we can say 100% of the money from fundraising goes directly into programming.”

Some of the additional treatments added include, massage and acupuncture therapy, aromatherapy, grief counseling, support groups, along with yoga and exercise classes. They also offer specific treatments like pelvic floor rehab or a dietician so that nutritional needs are met. 

“It added so much to the treatment. I consider that part of the treatment and I had acupuncture and massage regularly, the whole time I was in treatment,” McSwain said. “And the girls that did those therapies were just wonderful.”

Cancer survivor Rosie McSwain speaks with Calaway-Young Cancer Center doctor Dr. Donovan at Valley View Hospital.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

An individualistic treatment approach can help the patient feel like a part of a community. 

“Being able to provide really state-of-the-art cancer medicines up here in the mountains in an incredibly beautiful feeling valley is really a wonderful resource for all of us and our local community as well as some smaller communities nearby,” Hematology Oncologist Dr. Alexandra Donovan said.

A previously registered nurse herself, McSwain agreed and said that Donovan’s attention to detail and her compassion for her patients made the experience much more comfortable. 

Cancer survivor Rosie McSwain speaks with Calaway-Young Cancer Center doctor Dr. Donovan at Valley View Hospital.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

McSwain wanted to try mistletoe therapy, which is a holistic therapy for cancer, and she said that Donovan was a little hesitant at first, but as long as it was not harming her or interfering with her chemotherapy treatment, it would be OK. 

“It would have been difficult if she said no,” she said. “I would have thought, ‘Oh, what am I going to do now?’”

McSwain said she would actively accept the additional therapy provided by the hospital like the message therapy. The comfort and the beauty of the hospital location and how they developed the space also helps to make the experience more comfortable. 

Integrated Therapies Therapist Sara Para gives a Calaway-Young Cancer Center patient a foot massage in the infusion room at Valley View Hospital.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A cancer patient receives acupuncture at the Calaway-Young Cancer Center Integrated Therapies at Valley View Hospital.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

“I’m not looking at a wall. I’m looking at a beautiful mountain getting chemo,” McSwain said.

The cancer center works closely with care providers near and far to maximize the outcome of their patients.

As Rossi put it, the hospital does not work in a silo, they actively work with health providers throughout the region and all of the way out to Utah and the Front Range, along with all of the more local places in between like Craig, Montrose, Meeker, Vail Valley and Frisco. They are able to let patients see their specialists elsewhere and still receive treatment locally. 

“We get creative with treatment options for people who live far away without compromising the quality or efficacy of their care,” Donovan said. “We can help facilitate the treatment recommendations locally so they can still have specialists elsewhere, but we can provide the treatment closer to home.”

Cancer survivor Rosie McSwain speaks with Calaway-Young Cancer Center doctor Dr. Donovan at Valley View Hospital.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Now that McSwain is in remission and does not have to do chemotherapy anymore, she is excited to move forward with some of the resources the hospital gave her, like yoga, healthier dietary habits and a more present mindset. 

“We’re so lucky to have this cancer center right in our backyard,” McSwain said. “It’s so beautiful here.”

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