Linda Johnson will never forget the life-changing day she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
"It's funny you had to reschedule this interview from when we had planned," she said. "(This meeting) happens to be one year to the day since I was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer."
Though the sentence was very short, it was a very difficult thing for her to say. No doubt, in just a little more than a year she has endured the greatest trials and tribulations she's ever had to endure. It was obvious this was a very emotional accomplishment.
Dr. Theresa Pagliuca stands by as Linda Johnson, WCA Hospital director of public relations, uses the site’s Varian radiation treatment system. The Varian system provides world-class radiation treatment and is located at the Jones Memorial Hospital cancer treatment center.
P-J photo by Remington Whitcomb
And yet, there she stood, strong and resolute. Her last radiation treatment was Dec. 23, 2011. She had swum the channel and now stood ashore on the other side.
In achieving such an accomplishment, it's completely understandable that one would take great pride in themselves. While Johnson, WCA Hospital's public relations officer, is glad the battle is behind her for the moment, she vows she will never forget her "brothers in arms." She fully believes that without the treatment she received from Dr. Theresa Pagliuca at the WCA Cancer Treatment Center, she may not have won her battle.
"We have a nationally accredited cancer program," said Dr. Pagliuca. "We just went through the re-evaluation and the program was approved with commendations."
According to Johnson, only one in four hospitals across the nation are recognized by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer.
"We are so proud to have that gold seal of approval which states (WCA) has everything you need and our care is high-quality care," said Johnson. "You're getting the best and you're getting it close to home."
According to Dr. Pagliuca, the radiation treatment needed to treat cancer may only take 10 to 15 minutes per day. She believes due to the short time treatment takes, having world-class treatment close to home is of pinnacle importance.
"Cancer is a very time-consuming illness," said Dr. Pagliuca. "It's that much more disruptive if you have to drive two hours one way, especially if you're already not feeling well, or if you have to go some place and camp out in a hotel for 10 to 12 weeks. It's much easier if you can stay in your own home, living your own life, with your own support system in place. That's something that, until you've been through it, you really don't appreciate how important it is. That's something that is a priority (here). It's a particular interest of mine, to provide an optimal experience. It's bad enough patients need to be here, they don't need to be miserable the entire time they're here. Providing good supportive care makes the difference between a patient who gets through their treatment as mundanely as possible and someone who gets caught in the revolving door of going right back into the hospital as soon as they get out."
Johnson will testify that Dr. Pagliuca's words echo truth. While Johnson was receiving radiation treatment for her cancer at WCA's Cancer Treatment Center, she was also working full-time. She was able to continue living at home and went about her days as normally as possible.
For Dr. Pagliuca, it's cases like Johnson's that makes her proud to be a member of the Jamestown community. Dr. Pagliuca, a native of New York City, admitted there was some culture shock in coming to Jamestown to practice. She originally started practice in Jamestown simply because there was an opening for WCA which suited her, but in her time here has grown to appreciate the community. She believes there is a special bond between doctors in a small community and their patients that isn't there in large cities.
"I definitely have an affinity for smaller communities," said Pagliuca. "Not only because they're easier to live in, but as a medical professional, it's easier to negotiate all the different 'who's whos' in a smaller community. In a place like Buffalo, you may be trading patients back and forth with someone and you may never see them more than once."
Dr. Pagliuca says it's the concerted effort small-town doctors make to provide an individualized treatment plan for every patient that makes her want to continue to stay in Jamestown and Johnson believes that doctors like Dr. Pagliuca make city residents rest much easier knowing that world-class service is available within the city limits. It's a symbiotic relationship that WCA and residents alike hope will continue to flourish for years to come.
For the time being, though, Dr. Pagliuca and Johnson cannot say it enough: all cancer and other health-related needs any resident of the city could have are available right here at home.