Cancer Care

Cancer Care Really Does Take a Team
Melva Torres gently unfolds a long sheet of crinkled tissue paper. It looks like the kind of paper used to wrap the exam table at the doctor’s office, except this one is covered in the hieroglyphics of cancer. And that’s exactly what it is.

“Dr. Vicky Jones wrote it all down for me,” Melva says. “Then she drew pictures of my tumors so I could have an idea about the sizes. I am blessed that she is my doctor.” Melva carefully refolds and stores this very personal map of her breast cancer and the ongoing treatment by oncologist Vicky Jones, MD, and the staff at North Star Lodge Cancer Care.

Melva Torres and her cancer care team
Melva Torres and her cancer care team

“I was too young to be getting an annual mammogram, but I do my own self-exams and I felt a lump,” says Melva, age 40. “Johnnie said, ‘You go in.’”

Johnnie is Melva’s husband. They had been married less than two months, had two children at home and two grandchildren. Melva also worked fulltime as sales manager at a Yakima furniture store and, after her shift, she worked out, usually five times a week. “When they said I had breast cancer I just cried. I thought I was going to die. When we left the office I told my husband I wanted to divorce him. I was going to die and he should move on.

“He said, ‘I took my vows with you, and I’m going to be here until the end.’ After that I thought, God, take me where you need me to go.”

From diagnosis at `Ohana Mammography Center to treatment at North Star, Melva Torres knows one thing for sure: Cancer does not consult the calendar.

Shortly after diagnosis, the couple discovered Melva was pregnant. “We talked to Dr. Jones right away. We were scared, but she said, ‘We’re going to take care of this. We’ll get this done.’ ” Unfortunately, however, Melva miscarried.

Melva’s cancer was aggressive; she had a lumpectomy and is now on a post-treatment course of Herceptin. She started chemotherapy in October, and her long, curled hair began coming out in clumps almost immediately. “My dad told me to cut my hair so I could get it made into a wig. I told him, I thought it was too expensive, but he didn’t want to hear it,” she says.

Support for Melva came in many forms. “I felt very cared for through the whole process, and it’s not just North Star; that kind of care started at `Ohana. I really trusted my doctors and the staff. I was in such skilled hands.

“When I walked into North Star, I felt very fortunate to get to stay home for my treatment.”

Virginia Mason Memorial Cancer Care Receives National Commendations

In November 2017, the Commission on Cancer (CoC), a quality program of the American College of Surgeons, granted Three-Year Accreditation with Commendation to the cancer program at Virginia Mason Memorial. To earn voluntary CoC accreditation, a cancer program must meet or exceed the CoC quality care standards, be evaluated every three years and maintain levels of excellence in the delivery of comprehensive patient-centered care. Three-Year Accreditation with Commendation is awarded only to facilities that exceed standard requirements.

Because it is a CoC-accredited cancer center, Virginia Mason Memorial takes a multidisciplinary approach to treating cancer as a complex group of diseases that requires consultation among surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, diagnostic radiologists, pathologists, and other cancer specialists. This multidisciplinary partnership results in improved patient care.

North Star Lodge social worker
North Star Lodge social worker

“In more than 25 years of working in oncology care, this is the most exciting result I’ve seen from a Commission on Cancer survey,” said Tricia Sinek, senior director of the oncology service line at Virginia Mason Memorial. “We passed this test with flying colors – receiving five out of a possible seven commendations for going above and beyond even the toughest requirements.”

The Commission on Cancer reviews every part of the cancer program – from the accuracy of every cancer diagnosis, to ensuring patients are treated according to the most up-to-date treatment recommendations for surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Memorial’s results are measured against the national standards and the skill and expertise of every member of Memorial’s cancer care team are assessed.

'Ohana Mammography Center
'Ohana Mammography Center

“Yakima is fortunate to have this top-quality cancer program right here in our community,” says Tricia. “Our entire team is committed to delivering great cancer care — whether at North Star Lodge, Virginia Mason Memorial Hospital, `Ohana Mammography Center, in primary care or through services at Cottage in the Meadow.

“We have excellent doctors, nurses and nurse navigators, physicists, dietitians, social workers, genetic counselors, research staff, a financial assistance team for patients, volunteers, referral specialists, a cancer registry team, pharmacists, environmental services staff and leaders. This entire team is committed to delivering great cancer care every single day.”