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Feature Article Two Cancer Diagnoses One Top Choice for Health Care

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Macke and Mary Williams considered themselves “Mayo people.” As in, patients of the Mayo Clinic near their home in Mesa, Arizona. The two retired educators — now both in their early 80s — enjoyed life on the road in their RV, traveling between the Central Oregon Coast and Arizona.

It was in 2010 at their “home” at Pacific Shores RV Park in Newport, severe chest pains overcame Macke. He immediately went to Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital’s Emergency Department.

“I really liked the way I was treated,” said Macke. “They did the stress testing here, then I was sent to Corvallis for an angiogram and lots of other tests, and thought to myself, boy, Samaritan really has good staff and good doctors!”

He was relieved to learn that he had no heart blockages or other issues. Macke and Mary continued their “snowbird” lifestyle. While off-road, Macke tucked into a good crime novel, and Mary became quite the poker player.

“Dimes only!” she said.

It was in 2012 that Macke noticed some symptoms that had him schedule a visit to David Long, MD, of Samaritan Central Coast Internal Medicine. Macke’s prostate specific antigen or PSA level, was elevated. Long referred him to Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center for further testing, and it was confirmed: Macke had prostate cancer.

There was discussion about whether or not Macke should have his prostate surgically removed, what type of treatment he should have and for how long. Surgery didn’t appeal to him, given some of its known side effects.

“I drive a 40-foot coach and tow a car behind it. You can’t always find a place to park and go to the bathroom!” laughed Macke, in his practical-yet-positive way.

With their itinerant lifestyle taking them back to Arizona, they decided to go to the Mayo Clinic for a second opinion.

“I had lots of diagnostics there, and they agreed with the diagnosis from Samaritan,” said Macke.

When they returned to Oregon, Macke met with Mary Austin-Seymour, MD, from the Samaritan Cancer Program. Austin-Seymour has over 25 years of experience in treating cancer as part of a collaborative approach with medical oncologists, surgeons, pathologists, clinical trial researchers, oncology nurses and many other cancer care professionals.

“You can really talk to her,” said Macke. “She’s really down-to-earth and takes the time to really explain things.”

After much consideration, Macke decided to undergo 42 sessions of radiation therapy for his cancer. That meant being at the Samaritan Regional Cancer Center in Corvallis — which houses one of very few radiation therapy accelerators in the state — every single weekday, for eight consecutive weeks. It’s quite a haul, even for someone who lives nearby. But coming from Newport each day would be expensive and exhausting.

“That was when we learned about the Pastega House, and it was our first introduction to how great it is,” said Macke.

The Mario Pastega House serves as a home away from home for patients and their family needing access to Samaritan’s Corvallis-based services.

“It was a godsend,” said Macke, who learned the Pastega House offered RV spots.

He and Mary drove the RV over and spent weeks there while Macke underwent treatments.

“I’d go inside and have coffee and socialize with others at the house, which was great,” he said.

The Pastega House would more than support Macke in his treatments — it would also aid in Mary’s. During Macke’s health crisis, Mary suffered one of her own: breast cancer.

It was a after a routine mammogram at Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital that she was referred for further testing at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center.

“What was scary is that there were no symptoms,” said Mary, who was diagnosed at stage 1 — one of the earliest and most treatable stages for breast cancer. Mary, too, would seek care from Austin-Seymour, as well as breast surgical specialist David Faddis, MD.

The two physicians identified her as an ideal candidate for a specialized short course of breast cancer radiation treatment called brachytherapy that could be given over just five days.

“In the cancer center, everybody is super. They care about you! They know your name, and not just from the clipboard.” Mary loved the free make-up session, called Look Good, Feel Better. It’s one of many free services offered to patients who undergo cancer treatment.

“It was so nice when I was at the cancer center,” said Mary. “They had this person who came in and did make-up for us. She later saw us out for my birthday dinner at Izzy’s, and she picked up our dinner tab! It was a real ‘gotcha’ moment.”

Recently Macke needed shoulder surgery at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center.
 
“Mary doesn’t like to drive, so being able to stay at the Pastega House, so I could recover was another godsend. It’s not just for cancer patients,” said Macke.

Today, Macke and Mary are healthy and finished with active cancer treatments.

“We’re always within travel distance to Mayo, but we were so happy with our care at Samaritan, I’m realizing I don’t have to do that,” said Macke. “We can’t say enough good things about Samaritan.”