Residents of the South Shore who are battling cancer spend much of it traveling to points westward or northward to receive cancer treatment.
To illustrate that hardship, breast cancer survivor Suzette Rodriguez of West Babylon addressed the more than 200 people who had gathered in Bay Shore Friday to celebrate the opening of the $46.5 million, 45,000-square-foot Imbert Cancer Center on East Main Street.
Rodriguez, 40, underwent 16 rounds of chemotherapy and 30 rounds of radiation, mostly at Northwell Health’s Monter Cancer Center in Lake Success.
That’s about 45 minutes away on a good day, she noted, and up to three hours round-trip with traffic.
“This state-of-the-art Imbert Cancer Center will give patients not just amazing care, but also give them time,” said Rodriguez. “Time to rest, instead of having to drive. Time to spend with their loved ones, instead of sitting in traffic.”
“I used to stress, because I wanted to get home before my 10 year-old did from school,” she continued. “Most of the time I was not able to do so because of traffic. If the Imbert Cancer Center was open, this was something I would never have never had to worry about.”
The cancer center, built in a former King Kullen not only houses state-of-the-art equipment, but was designed with an eye toward providing a calming and soothing space for patients, according to Northwell Health.
In many ways, it’s meant to feel like home, inspired by life on the South Shore. Indeed one of the main areas for patients to sit and meet with family and friends is referred to as the living room.
Part of the Northwell Health Cancer Institute, the center in Bay Shore provides cancer care that includes medical oncology, radiation therapy services, accredited imaging, specialized surgery, as well as clinical trials.
It also boasts, among other cutting-edge devices, a multi-million dollar linear accelerator for super-precise radiation treatment.
“The oft-used phrase ‘state of the art, ‘does not begin to describe the most awesome, high-tech electronics of a radiation oncologist’s wildest dreams,” said Dr. John Ames, the director of radiation medicine at the center, which opens Oct. 31. “There’s only a handful of radiation therapy machines in the world that are as sophisticated as we have in that building.”
The massive undertaking, in the works for several years, was made possible in part because of the generosity of community leaders and Bay Shore residents Rick and Susan Imbert, who made an undisclosed donation toward the project.
“Susan and Rick, your philanthropy will touch thousands of patients right here, and those families will have a place of comfort right in their own community during the most trying and difficult times of their lives,” said Mark Claster, Northwell Health’s board chairman.
Rick Imbert quoted Mother Teresa in his brief remarks:
“If you can’t feed 100 people, than feed just one. Never worry about the numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest to you,” he said.
Susan Imbert spoke of love and hope.
“We all know the saying, love makes the world go round,” she said. “Well, this cancer center right here in our own hometown was built by Northwell Health with love, and you can really feel it when you walk through those doors,” she said. “And who needs to feel love more than when we know we are facing perhaps the greatest battle of our lives, when we and our families come here with all the faith, hope and trust one can muster to defeat the enemy, and our worst nightmare: cancer?
“I’d like to think that Imbert Cancer Center on the corner of our street, where we live, South Saxon Avenue, stands for defying cancer,” she continued, choking back tears.
“And thanks to the quality, compassion and innovation of the physicians of Northwell Health Cancer Institute, against all odds, cancer will be defeated right here in Bay Shore.”