By ALISSA SCOTT
In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness month, state Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk delivered a proclamation to the Cancer Medicine Center at St. Mary's Healthcare in Amsterdam Friday afternoon.
"I wanted to recognize St. Mary's and let people know that this is a great place to go and get help and support," Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, said.
In her proclamation, Tkaczyk recognized St. Mary's staff and its professional experience in providing patients with individualized attention and care.
"We reaffirm our commitment to eradicate breast cancer, renew our support for increased access to screening and care," Tkaczyk read, "and encourage the innovative research that will usher in a new era in the fight against breast cancer."
A group of doctors specializing in cancer treatment, staff and several dignitaries met at the center to take a tour of the facility and talk about state aid.
Victor Giulianelli, president and CEO of St. Mary's Healthcare, said the hospital sees about 35 patients a day who receive some kind of cancer treatment. Of those, 42 percent are under-insured.
"A lot of times, patients cannot afford their co-pays," Dr. Xiao Su said. "So we pay their co-pays so they can continue to receive their treatment.
Giulianelli said that accounts for much of the hospital's unpaid debt. Still, he said, it's worth it to ensure their patients are taken care of.
"State funding programs like Cancer Screening Service are critical," Giulianelli said. "We've had 3,400 patients tested for breast, colorectal, cervical cancer and a thousand of them had treatment following. We suggest that these are patients that were, A, never screened before, because they didn't have accessibility or, B, patients who had significant risks. So, we've been able to get them treatment."
Tkaczyk noted the facility must be a "home away from home" for many people.
Su said many of his patients become family to the doctors and staff, and some patients are even sad when they stop treatments.
"They ask can I be their primary physician," Su said. "They tell me, 'my arm hurts, can you look at my back?'"
Giulianelli said he doesn't just think St. Mary's is an "awesome place" to receive treatment because he works for the company. His also trusted the facility to take care of his sister last year, who is now cancer-free.
"How many have not been touched by cancer in general?" Giulianelli asked. "It touches people very dramatically, very personally."
Montgomery County Board of Supervisors Chairman John Thayer said that's why it's great that St. Mary's has become an anchor of the county.
"They're providing that service that's so desperately needed," Thayer said.
On Nov. 11, the center is hosting "Well With You Day" from 2 to 4 p.m. The event will honor, educate and pamper female cancer survivors. They will discuss fall make-up tips, paint their nails, provide wig fittings and offer spiritual information. There will also be a presentation on healthy eating when living with cancer by a registered dietitian.
To register for the event, call 770-7557 to RSVP.