Avera Medical Minute ASM: Helmsley Center expected to open this fall; cancer patients won’t have to travel far for radiation

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Radiation oncology will soon be in Pierre. Avera St. Mary’s Hospital wants to improve and provide comprehensive cancer care. Currently, patients must travel at least 150 miles for this type of care.

Once the Helmsley Center is open, patients won’t have to travel far to get the radiation they need.

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer on September 5,” said Mary Dozark.

With husband Glenn by her side, Dozark has stayed positive throughout her breast cancer journey.

“I had 20 weeks of chemotherapy here in Pierre and then four weeks of radiation in Mitchell,” said Dozark.

Dozark and her husband drove from Fort Pierre to Mitchell Monday through Friday for four weeks.

“We’d get up, and then we traveled to Mitchell, and then you’d have your radiation -- which just lasts for a few minutes -- and then you get dressed again and then you head home. So it takes up quite a bit of your day and that’s basically what you do for five days a week,” said Dozark.

Soon, cancer patients like Mary won’t have to travel far for radiation.

“We are so excited for the new Helmsley Center here in central South Dakota. We’re going to have new clinic space, infusion space and of course radiation, which central South Dakota hasn’t see yet,” said Jamie Hillmer, certified nurse practitioner at Avera St. Mary’s.

Dozark says taking away that daily commute for radiation means less stress for cancer patients.

“For me it means that it’s home. I mean, I can go to my treatment and then go home and be surrounded by family and things that I’m comfortable with. And it’s just a place to relax after going through that,” said Dozark.

“When you’re diagnosed with cancer, you have so many different things you have to deal with – the physical side effects, social, the mental and the financial. And so just taking that financial burden off people -- they won’t have to travel for two to four hours every day,” said Hillmer.

“It just will be so wonderful to have that here in Pierre. And even for the people that don’t live in Pierre or Fort Pierre, but within this area, to be able to travel to Pierre, have their radiation, go home within a half hour or an hour, will just be amazing and so much easier,” said Dozark.

“It’s a great addition at Avera St. Mary’s Hospital in Pierre,” said Hillmer.

The Helmsley Center will offer radiation and medical oncology, linear accelerator treatment, infusion, integrative medicine and ongoing support.

For more information, visit avera.org.