By Gabrielle Echevarrieta
A cancer diagnosis can radically change one’s life in an instant. Grueling treatments take a toll on the mind as much as the body, leaving many patients feeling isolated and scared about an uncertain future. With modern medicine often hyperfocused on the physical body, the spiritual health of patients is often neglected. But at The Phillips Family Cancer Center of Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, cancer warriors are more than just a statistic. “When many people get their initial diagnosis, they are often alone. You hang up from that call like, ‘What do I do, where do I go from here?’” says Laura Borghardt, director of cancer services at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital. “We see patients as people. They are not just their cancer. This is something that happened to them. Not who they are.”
The state-of-the-art center—with two floors dedicated to radiation oncology, medical oncology and hematology—is home to a cutting-edge TrueBeam linear accelerator: the latest and greatest in cancer-fighting technology designed to target and maximize radiation dose to the tumor volume, while preserving healthy tissue. This futuristic care system is complemented by the center’s fleet of comprehensive wellness offerings, marrying modern treatment methods with traditional healing practices. “Everyone wants to treat the body, but if you’re not addressing the mind, it’s not a full treatment plan,” says Jessica Swiatocha, nurse practitioner and manager of cardiopulmonary rehabilitation and wellness services. “Treating patients in a more holistic atmosphere helps them in their cancer journey, and gives them an emotional outlet.”
A revolving schedule of wellness activities includes meditation, yoga, Reiki, massage, a “food as medicine” nutrition program, a “strength through song” singing class, plus counseling for both patients and caregivers. All of the cancer wellness programs are free and are available to any person living or residing on the East End undergoing cancer treatment, even if they are treated elsewhere.
“The beauty of Southampton inspired the look of the treatment space,” says Borghardt. “One patient told me she feels like she’s in a cancer spa!” Bathed in natural light with large windows overlooking outdoor spaces, treatment areas are carefully designed for ultimate comfort and privacy. Each of the center’s 14 infusion bays are set up like mini living rooms, with plush recliners and couches, televisions, and warm blankets for utmost coziness during treatment. Wellness practitioners regularly make rounds through the floor, providing gentle massages and acupressure throughout infusion sessions.
Individuals who are currently undergoing treatment in New York City or elsewhere but wish to spend time on the South Fork can seamlessly continue their treatment at the Phillips Family Cancer Center, a wholly integrated site of Stony Brook University’s Cancer Center, providing direct access to leading specialists and clinical trials.