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Cancer center opens in American Fork

Huntsman says project with IHC is a dream come true

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The Huntsman-IHC Cancer Center at American Fork Hospital is open for business. The $3.9 million facility will provide treatment for residents of northern Utah County.

The Huntsman-IHC Cancer Center at American Fork Hospital is open for business. The $3.9 million facility will provide treatment for residents of northern Utah County.

Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News

AMERICAN FORK — There was no ribbon cutting, no brass band, no champagne.

The dignitaries were there, but when the revolutionary new Huntsman-IHC Cancer Center at American Fork Hospital was declared open for business, it was done with a moment of silence as those present held up stained-glass stars to symbolize the hope the new center will bring to cancer patients in northern Utah County.

Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. said when he entered the new facility he could feel the hope it projected for those battling cancer.

"It's the hope you can keep going, the hope you can live to see another day," he said.

Huntsman, a former president of the Huntsman Cancer Institute located near the University of Utah, said the new center is the product of years of talks and coordination with Intermountain Health Care.

"It's a dream that's long been in the works," he said. "I'm so delighted to see it come to fruition."

The $3.9 million facility will provide radiation and chemotherapy treatment for residents of northern Utah County. Jon Huntsman Sr., the governor's father and founder of the Huntsman Cancer Institute, said the center is the first of its kind.

"Nowhere else in America, or in the world as far as we know, has anyone brought together a major cancer center and a respected hospital chain," he said. "This is a model for everywhere in America, and right here in American Fork is where it all began."

The center will combine the Huntsman Institute's research and knowledge with the treatment expertise of the largest hospital group in the state. Everything about the center, from the multimedia education center to the seven exam rooms, was designed with cancer patients and their families in mind.

The infusion room, where chemotherapy is administered, has a floor-to-ceiling window that looks out on the "Healing Garden." In the center of the garden is a bronze statue of a young boy sitting on a wall and pulling his little sister up to sit with him.

"(The statue) is very symbolic of what we try to do with cancer patients," said Lana Nelson, a hospital spokeswoman.

Colleen Terry, a Saratoga Springs woman who was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma exactly one year before the center opened, was one of the speakers at Tuesday's ceremony.

Terry, an instructor at the LDS Institute near Utah Valley State College, said cancer reversed her role and turned her into a student. Her cancer has since gone into remission, and last Saturday she was able to climb Mount Timpanogos, the peak she would look up at from her home during her treatment and hope to someday climb again.

Climbing that peak was similar to reaching "the peak of remission in fighting cancer," she said.

Terry urged those who were still fighting cancer to be courageous in the face of adversity and slow progress, and those who have lost loved ones to remain as strong as possible.

"Honor them by being courageous in your own struggles," she said.

The center will begin treating patients on Monday, and appointments are already in place. Two physicians will be at the facility to plan and administer treatment: Wendy Breyer, a medical oncologist from Maryland, will oversee chemotherapy treatments; and Jay A. Clark, a radiation oncologist from Provo, will handle radiation therapy.

Clark said it was "almost overwhelming" to be involved in the groundbreaking facility.

"It allows us to deliver world-class cancer care in a setting that's close to home," he said.

Clark, like the speakers at the ceremony, said being able to receive treatment close to family support systems is essential to beating cancer.

"People who do it without family or some other kind of support system really struggle through treatment," he said.

Breyer agreed, calling the presence of friends and family "uplifting." She also said she has been impressed by the strength of the support she's seen from the LDS culture.

"I've had patients come in and tell me that dinner was brought to them every day of the last week," she said.

The two doctors will be aided in their endeavors by the facility's most impressive feature, the linear accelerator, a $1.8 million radiation machine that rotates around patients as they lie still, allowing doctors to tailor state-of-the-art treatment to where it is needed.

The linear accelerator also creates digital images of the patient's cancer, removing the need for expensive X-ray film and allowing the images to be easily studied and shared with other facilities if needed.

Breyer and Clark brimmed with enthusiasm about the new center's potential, giving fulfillment to the night's theme — "Giving light to a new season of hope" — and suggesting that brighter times are ahead for Utah County residents thrown into the battle of a lifetime.

E-mail: jtwitchell@desnews.com