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CAMC staff looks forward to new cancer center

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Photo courtesy of CAMC. Hurricane resident Steve Sovine receives treatment at the David Lee Cancer Center. Photo courtesy of CAMC. Hurricane resident Steve Sovine receives treatment at the David Lee Cancer Center.

Hurricane resident Steve Sovine thanks a hurt back to discovering his Stage 1 cancer. 

Sovine was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells in his bone marrow. Doctors discovered the condition after Sovine was undergoing treatments to help heal his injured back.

"It's a good thing I hurt my back or I wouldn't have known," Sovine said.

Every Tuesday, he travels to Charleston Area Medical Center's David Lee Cancer Center to receive treatment.

"There's a good chance I will go to Morgantown to have a marrow transplant with my own stem cells," he said.

Patients like Sovine are the reason much of CAMC's staff love their jobs, said Jennifer Bass, a financial navigator at the cancer center.

"Patients are family too," Bass said. "You're here more than you are with your family. I pray for every one of our patients that I have direct contact with because it's a personal thing with me."

But staff and patients are going through another problem. There just isn't enough room in the facility.

"There is a recliner cabinet that comes out to the wall, an IV pole and a hook for a jacket," Beverly Farmer, practice administrator said, describing the patient "cubicles." "They are walled in — there's no wiggle room." 

"The family members are not in that cubicle," Farmer added. "They're in the hallway."

Charleston Area Medical Center's David Lee Cancer Center is spread over three floors on its MacCorkle Avenue location, and its breast cancer center is across town at the Women's and Children's Hospital.

"We need to be all together," Farmer said.

Farmer said the cancer center is the busiest in the state. According to CAMC's website, the number of seen patients increased from 17,962 in 2004 to 30,366 in 2009.

And that number will continue to grow. CAMC officials estimate there will be 34,000 patients by 2017.

That is one of the reasons why the center's staff is looking forward to a newer, larger facility.

The new two-floored center, which will be located on the old Watt Powell Park site, is estimated to cost $39 million. Officials estimate the new cancer center will cut wait times in half and services will be more effective and efficient.

The groundbreaking could be in January.

Amy Beaver, a patient navigator at CAMC's breast cancer center, said she looks forward to being in the same building.

Beaver said the move will make it easier on patients because they will be able to order an image biopsy and talk to an oncologist at the same time or the same day.

It also will expedite pathology reports. Farmer said the average wait time is three days.

Even though the staff is looking forward to more space, they say they make it work at the current facility.

"We make it work well," Bass said. "We could function better if we had more space but we do well with what we have."

Farmer agreed.

"We want it to be comfortable for patients. It's not the most comfortable spot, but they don't complain. … They say everyone is being nice or friendly. I can honestly say I've never had complaints other than it's cramped."

As for Sovine, he doesn't mind the small spaces. Instead, he said he's just happy with his doctors and the treatment he receives.

"I know the doctors here are good," he said. "I feel good with my doctor, and all the nurses here have been really good. I've been treated really well." 

And Beaver said that's what the cancer center is all about.

"That's what CAMC is supposed to do," she said. "That's the heart and soul of CAMC that a lot of people don't get to see."

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