Roswell Park Resource Center giving patients a ‘soft place to land’ after cancer diagnosis

Local News

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Ann Drexelius was driving to buy dinner for her family in summer of 2020 when the unexpected happened.

A car came from across the road and hit her, sending her to Kenmore Mercy. Little did she know, that car accident literally saved her life.

When doctors did a cat scan, they discovered she had lung cancer.

She said doctors at Roswell later told her if the accident hadn’t happened, she probably would have died before they detected it.

The close calls didn’t stop there.

To combat the lung cancer, Ann opted for surgery. While on the table, her blood pressure dropped to 40 over 0 and she said it took doctors 15 minutes to bring her back to life.

Ann said she was discouraged, but hesitantly started radiation at Roswell Park. After her first session, not feeling too great, she walked upstairs to the Resource Center.

“I met these terrific terrific ladies that were up there and just sat and talked and I felt so much at ease within the first few minutes of talking to them. I just felt there was hope for me afterwards,” Ann said.

Resource Center manager Martha Hickey described the center as a soft place to land after a diagnosis.

She said Roswell Park is a comprehensive cancer center, meaning they have a responsibility not only on the clinical side but also to take care of the whole patient.

“We tell people if you’ve come to the Resource Center now you’re our friend and you have to come back and we can help you along the way. If you’re having a side effect or you have a question or now you’ve thought of something in the middle of the night and you don’t have an answer to it, come in and see us,” she said.

They offer one-on-one non-clinical chemotherapy orientations, patient education, and sometimes just a shoulder to cry on.

Appointments aren’t needed, people can just walk in anytime.

They also offer the “Look Good, Feel Better” program which includes wigs, hairstylists to style the wigs, makeup classes, and more.

“Self-image and feeling more like yourself during treatment really is a positive thing for patients going through this so if we have the opportunity to offer an eyebrow class or a makeup class, talking with them about self-image, it’s really important to address it,” Martha said. “These are great ways for women to feel and look more like themselves which gives them strength to carry on and go through treatment after treatment.”

Ann said she didn’t even consider getting a wig until the women encouraged her. A couple of weeks ago, she picked up her second one.

“They just sat going through book after book showing you what they thought would look best on you. And I had a bob like this when I was younger so this took me back 20-some years. So I have to tell you I’m like 78-years-old, so to me, it felt good and it made me feel wonderful,” Ann said.

Ann wore the wig for her 60th wedding anniversary celebration with her husband Rich, which she said she never thought she’d live to experience. She shared her joy with the women in the Resource Center during her next visit.

“She brought with her the photo album of her anniversary with her husband and showed us all about her family and showed pictures and we sat on the couch just like we were in a living room,” Martha said.

Ann isn’t cancer-free yet, but she said doctors told her it’s less active in her body.

She said she honestly doesn’t know if she could’ve survived without her guardian angels in the Resource Center.

“When the days are that you feel down and out when you don’t feel well at all, when you’re so exhausted you can’t get into the van to come home, they made you always feel comfortable, they always gave me hope, and I use that word a lot. Hope and peace is what they gave me.”

Martha loves her job and said it’s incredible to see the full journey.

“We see them in the beginning and we see them all the way through to ringing the bell, it’s exhilarating. I don’t know if there’s been a bell ringing where there’s a dry eye.”

The services the center offers aren’t just for women with cancer, they also welcome men and children.

There’s also a place for family members and caregivers who need support, have questions, or just need someone to talk to while waiting for their patient to finish a procedure.

“I need their support as much as I need the medical support. I mean I think I probably would’ve ended up with psychiatrist or something after everything Rich and I have been there through but I just felt so warm so comfortable and so loved and I knew I was gonna be taken care of,” Ann said.

All the services are free to patients and funded through Roswell’s Quality of Life grant.

Kayla Green is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of her work here.

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