Center Does Indeed Offer Hope

In America, a woman dies of cancer every eleven minutes.

In the past 10 days, at least five people have mentioned liver cancer to me.

This week, I say through a hearing in the State House, a nine hour hearing that focused on, among other things, so-called drive-through mastectomies, surgery being done on an outpatient basis.

Cancer. Only a decade or two ago you didn't even say the word out loud. You might have whispered it, or talked about it behind the patient's back. Certainly out of earshot. Never in polite company.

Cancer. Then, it was, most certainly fatal. But, today, miracles do happen. The miracles of medicine, for example.

A friend recently had what is yet experimental surgery for treatment of a brain tumor. The diagnosis is good. Several friends have had mastectomies, and live full, active and happy lives.

Of course, not all cancer patients survive. And this disease visits almost every family. But, today, there are a of success stories. And, a lot of hope.

Westfield has a brand new, officially named, Center for Hope. It's in Noble House on Court Street, adjacent to Noble Hospital. A simple house from the outside. Fairly simple on the inside, too. But a haven, a gathering place, where people diagnosed with cancer, and their families, can go for everything from breast prostheses to relaxation, books and information to camaraderie, a shoulder to cry on, or to find someone to celebrate another victory.

Indeed, a Center for Hope.

It's the only such facility in the area, and is being visited by people from throughout the Pioneer Valley, even northern Connecticut.

Right now, Gaetana Aliotta is the executive director. But she's not being paid. It's a volunteer effort, and Gaetana, diagnosed with cancer herself, has a loyal, unpaid, staff of more than 40 volunteers. All in a house donated by Noble Hospital.

Just yesterday, Woronoco Savings Bank gave the Center for Hope a check for $25,000. The Bank will donate another $25,000 when the Center for Hope matches it with $25,000.

And the Center for Hope isn't wasting any time. They're already scheduled a fashion show for May 5th, and you can buy your tickets at the Center for Hope, 86 Court Street.

Even if you don't want to go to the fashion show, do go to the Center of Hope to see what they have to offer. Last Sunday, a few hundred of us visited the Center, and everyone came away impressed with the programs and people available to you.

I just got a book in the mail called "Treading the Maze," an artist's journey through breast cancer by Susan King. It's about the world of fear, isolation and bewilderment faced by cancer patients. And, it's just that fear, isolation, and bewilderment that the Center for Hope is trying to tame.

And, yes, I'm optimistic that we in the Legislature will pass a law that allows mastectomy patients to remain in the hospital for at least 48 hours.

Patients could choose to go home sooner if they want, but they won't be sent home before they're ready. The problem now, of course, isn't with doctors or hospitals, but with some insurers and HMOs that don't want to pay the bill.

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