Susan Allen is a cancer survivor…eight times over.
First diagnosed in 2004 with melanoma, she’s also battled stage 3C breast cancer, melanoma a second time, and five bouts of bladder cancer which, according to her doctors, will reoccur for the rest of her life.
You don’t face cancer and beat it that many times without learning a thing or two about yourself and what you do and don’t want when it comes to treating your disease.
“When I was nauseous, dehydrated and dealing with painful mouth sores from chemotherapy, the last place I wanted to end up was a hospital emergency room,” explained Allen. “They put you in a room and order a bunch of tests which tell you what you already know — you have cancer. Besides that, you expose yourself to a lot of germs at a time when you’re already immunosuppressed.”
After doing research on cancer treatment, she found Dayton Physicians Network, and the care she has received there as made all the difference.
Community oncology practices bring continuity of care
Dayton Physicians Network is the only independent, community oncology practice in the Dayton area. The network was established in 2006, when three physician practices with multiple areas of specialty decided to merge to form a patient-centered practice that would provide a comprehensive approach to personalized patient care in the areas of medical oncology, radiation oncology, imaging and urology.
Dayton Physicians Network has 13 office locations from Greeneville to Middletown, so patients can stay close to home. In addition, they have an infusion clinic, radiation clinic, and a pharmacy on site, as well as after-hours care to address acute medical situations.
While Allen appreciates the convenience of the on-site facilities while receiving treatment, it is the quality and continuity of care that she receives, and the lower costs for care and treatment, that have convinced her of the value of community oncology practices.
“When I was going through four-and-a-half months of chemotherapy, it was nice to have the same team of nurses every time…and they always called me the next day to see how I was doing,” said Allen. “If I had an issue, I didn’t have to go to an emergency room and risk long wait times and exposing myself to dangerous germs. Thanks to their after-hours care, I could just go right to DPN for help.”
So when Allen was approached about being a patient advocate to raise awareness about the benefits of community oncology practices, she jumped at the chance.
New local Community Oncology Alliance chapter
Dayton Physicians Network recently launched a local chapter of the Community Oncology Alliance (COA) Patient Advocacy Network (CPAN).
“About 18 months ago, our CEO, Robert Baird, approached me about COA and the important things they were doing,” explained Jill Reese, RN, clinical nurse educator and CPAN patient advocacy leader for Dayton Physicians Network. “He’d become involved with the organization and thought we needed a local chapter.”
COA is a national non-profit organization solely dedicated to advocating for community oncology practices, and most importantly, the patients they serve. Their mission is to ensure that cancer patients receive quality, affordable and accessible care within their own communities.
A nationally recognized patient advocacy group, CPAN was created in recognition of the vital role that patients themselves should play in advocating for access to local, affordable care for all cancer patients. The organization provides the patient’s voice, along with community oncologists, nurses and healthcare administrators, in the fight to preserve community cancer care and access to local care.
“People who are battling cancer have enough to worry about,” said Reese. “They don’t need the added stress of worrying about which hospitals are in their insurance network and which ones are not. Since we aren’t affiliated with any hospitals, that stressor is eliminated for patients, so they can keep their focus on getting well.”
Last April, CPAN advocates from across the country converged on Capitol Hill to let congress know about the importance of local, community cancer care in their lives. Several Daytonians, including Allen, attended the meeting as representatives of DPN.
For her part, Allen will continue to speak on behalf of those who, because of current circumstances, can’t speak for themselves.
Said Allen, “I feel called to be a voice for patients who, because they are undergoing cancer treatment, can’t really be involved in having their voices heard. It’s so important to continue getting the word out and sharing the knowledge of the benefits of getting cancer treatment done locally.”
The next meeting for Dayton Physicians Network’s local chapter of the COA Patient Advocacy Network is scheduled for Wednesday, June 21, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Miami Valley Hospital South’s Comprehensive Cancer Center (2300 Miami Valley Drive, Centerville).