Kate Frye is the kind of grandmother that any child would be lucky to have. When she talks about her granddaughter, Emerson, her eyes light up and she simply can’t keep herself from smiling.
“She is pretty much my whole world, that little girl,” she said, with a mixture of pride and glee noticeable in her voice.
Kate spends hours at a time playing outside with the energetic 7-year-old in Spearfish. When Emerson comes to visit her grandmother in Ekalaka, Mont., she often brings flowers to plant in the garden. “She loves running and loves for me to try to catch her,” Kate said.
With their strong connection, it’s no wonder that when she was diagnosed with lung cancer last summer, Kate made a promise to herself, focused on the granddaughter she loves so much.
“I’m going to watch that little girl grow up,” she said with tears in her eyes.
It’s that promise that keeps Kate so driven and positive even six months into her cancer treatment. In July 2020, Kate started to experience shortness of breath. Because of a family history of heart trouble, she wanted to be proactive and scheduled an appointment with her local provider. Her EKG came back normal, so her doctor ordered more tests, eventually exposing cancer in her lungs. The diagnosis caught Kate off guard. “I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t believe it. I‘m just the kind of person that is never sick.”
Kate’s local provider quickly arranged treatment at the Monument Health Cancer Care Institute and she learned that she would be coming to Rapid City for several rounds of radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
With rising numbers of cancer patients across the region, the Cancer Care Institute expansion project will ensure these patients continue to receive the best possible care close to home.
“I tell you what, they put you through a lot,” she said. “The day, after day, after day of radiation and chemo.”
Kate raves about the care she received from Than Than Aye, M.D. and everyone at the Cancer Care Institute. They were all incredible to her, but one caregiver sticks out.
Her radiation therapist, Adam Mitchell, really made an impression on her. He was always there with words of encouragement, a simple pat on the shoulder or just to say “you did great.” Those small gestures always made a big impact on Kate, and she jokingly told him that when she finally completed her treatment she planned to play him a song when she rang the “end of treatment bell.”
Kate was joking, but Adam took it to heart — when Kate rang the bell last fall, Adam was ready with a choreographed dance routine complete with moves like the Q-Tip and the sprinkler. Everyone on hand fell into bouts of hysterical laughter, but no one laughed as hard as Kate. Cancer treatment isn’t easy, but these acts of human kindness — be they large or small — make it just a little bit easier.
This coming summer, Kate is looking forward to being cancer-free and done with cancer treatments. She plans to spend the long summer days planting flowers and enjoying the sunshine with her yellow lab, Macy. Most of all, she can’t wait to chase Emerson around the yard, and watch her grow.
The Growing Need
Stories like Kate’s are becoming more common across the region. Each day nearly 200 patients are seen at Monument Health’s Cancer Care Institute. The facility serves five states and accommodates more than 40,000 patient visits annually.
The rise in cancer isn’t unique to the region. In 2018, there were 18.1 million new cancer cases worldwide. By 2040, the number is expected to rise to 29.5 million. While physicians and caregivers in Rapid City offer the best care possible, they are simply running out of space to meet the region’s growing cancer needs. The solution is a $36 million expansion project for Cancer Care Institute that will double the institute’s current size. This project will be supported by the Together We Can capital campaign run by the Monument Health Foundation. The Foundation has already committed $6.5 million in previously raised funds to this campaign and is working to raise an additional $2 million.
With the community’s support of the Together We Can campaign, the Cancer Care Institute will become a 70,000 square-foot facility. The expansion and renovation will provide the space Monument Health needs to hire more oncologists and ensure the health care system is on the leading edge of the cancer fight.
Kate believes keeping cancer care close to home is vital for patients and that is why she supports the Together We Can campaign.
“I’ll tell you what, being around family and being able to go home, it’s just such a relief,” she said. By supporting this campaign and expanding Cancer Care Institute, more cancer patients across the region will receive state-of-the-art treatments every day, while getting to spend each night in the comfort of their own homes, right here in the Black Hills.
The Project: The expansion of Monument Health’s Cancer Care Institute is a $36 million project that will double the size of the current facility. Construction is slated to start this spring. The new main lobby and waiting room will be a bright and inviting space for the nearly 200 patients seen at the Cancer Care Institute each day. The area will feature more than 1,400 square feet of waiting space, a large greeter desk, patient resource lounge and a retail space. By expanding the infusion area to the second floor, patients will have private rooms with plenty of space for friends and family. The large windows with splendid views will provide a more pleasant experience. The project will also expand the radiation and medical oncology departments, allowing for more services and the hiring of more oncologists
A Multidisciplinary Approach
Questions about treatment options, availability of clinical trials and what order to schedule appointments can overwhelm and exhaust patients already dealing with one of the most stressful events in their lives. With the expansion of Cancer Care Institute, Monument Health will take an integrated approach to care, where multidisciplinary conferences with several doctors and caregivers will help patients navigate the specialized path ahead.
“With this new expansion, Monument Health will invest further in technologies that allow for multidisciplinary team-based care, where physicians and staff from multiple specialties can meet, review and plan the best possible care plan for our patients,” said Doug Koch, Monument Health’s Vice President of Operations for the Rapid City Market.
The addition of a large 800 square foot, 50-person conference room, equipped with state-of-theart video conferencing equipment, will make it possible for a patient’s primary care providers to join the conversation from anywhere. Because Monument Health is a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, Mayo’s physicians and additional resources will be just a video conference away.
This improved approach is clinically proven to increase patient outcomes. A recent study of 224 cancer patients, published in the Laryngoscope medical journal, found a 23 percent increase in 5-year disease-specific survival rates when multidisciplinary cancer treatment conferences were used.
“Similar to other medical services provided in this region, the community deserves access to a state-of-the-art, modern cancer center that offers treatment for nearly 99 percent of all the cancers seen,” said Daniel Petereit, M.D., FASTRO, Radiation Oncologist at Monument Health’s Cancer Care Institute. “Our vision is to offer multidisciplinary care in one setting as opposed to patients having to travel to multiple clinics to receive the necessary opinions prior to initiating cancer treatment.”
Through donations previously raised from programs like Tough Enough to Wear Pink, the Pink Champagne Brunch and golf tournaments, the Foundation committed $6.5 million at the outset of the campaign. The Foundation is currently raising an additional $2 million, bringing the total campaign contribution to $8.5 million or nearly 25 percent of the total project cost. To reach that goal, Monument Health Foundation needs the help of the entire Black Hills community. Visit monument.health/togetherwecan to learn more about the campaign and partner on our new vision for cancer care in our region.
“Time and again, our communities have proven that we can step up, take care of our neighbors and meet the needs of our growing region. This is one of those times,” said Paulette Davidson, Monument Health President and CEO. “We need to do this for the patients we’re treating today and for the patients we will treat in the future.”