By Dr. Amrita Desai, Medical Oncologist and Medical Director of Oncology
Your team at the Cancer Center understands how challenging it is to balance your need for cancer care and emotional support against the risks of the COVID-19 pandemic. You and your caregivers are often encouraged to keep in close contact with your team, come in frequently for checkups and treatments, and stay connected with cancer support systems. However, it can be confusing with some public health recommendations urging you to stay home, be cautious and avoid large groups of people.
Keeping you safe
Throughout the pandemic, the CMH-OHSU Knight Cancer Collaborative has instituted numerous safety procedures so you feel comfortable coming in for visits. We have worked hard to keep patients updated on these changes — and also to offer virtual and phone visits for patients not needing in-person care. For those who need to come in, you’ll find patients and Cancer Center staff wearing masks at all times, temperature checks completed on arrival, and enhanced cleaning and hand hygiene policies.
Per government regulations, we have also limited caregiver/family/volunteer access to the center to decrease risk of exposure. This is an especially hard but necessary limitation for our patients at a time when they need the support of loved ones the most. We hope to ease this restriction as government and public health guidelines allow.
To provide a new way of supporting our patients during the pandemic, the Cancer Center’s award-winning and tireless social worker, Mari Montesano, LCSW, is developing plans for an online patient community. This will provide virtual access to your support community with group and private chat links to scheduled sessions with support groups, yoga and meditation.
Additionally, our irreplaceable nurse practitioner, Kelley Crusius, MSN, FNP-C, and Montesano have developed a care package we will deliver to patients’ homes. Crusius says they wanted to remind patients that their caregivers are still thinking of and rooting for them.
The patients are chosen at random, and about 10 per month will receive a box filled with donated items from local businesses, friends, patients and caregivers. There are self-care items, handmade masks and personalized details from caregivers who have gotten to know patients well during treatment. Crusius and Montesano hope to continue the boxes past the pandemic to help patients who feel isolated during normal treatment.
Adding to your care team
We want to introduce you to our newest team member, Mark Sundermeyer, MD, who specializes in medical oncology and hematology and joined us June 1. Originally from Missouri, he obtained his medical degree at the University of Missouri – Columbia and completed his internal medicine residency at Temple University Hospital and his hematology/oncology fellowship at Fox Chase Cancer Center. For the past 15 years, Dr. Sundermeyer practiced at Abington-Jefferson Health in Philadelphia. We are pleased to welcome him and his family to the community and our Cancer Center.
Call your team at the Cancer Center at 503-338-4085 if you have any questions about how to safely get care.
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