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Our View: Cancer center fundraising deserves thunderous applause

Community saw a priority, made it happen

Published on February 12, 2018 10:30AM

Former Astoria Mayor Willis Van Dusen shares an embrace with Oregon State Senator Betsy Johnson at an event in October to celebrate the opening of the new Knight Cancer Collaborative.

Colin Murphey/The Daily Astorian

Former Astoria Mayor Willis Van Dusen shares an embrace with Oregon State Senator Betsy Johnson at an event in October to celebrate the opening of the new Knight Cancer Collaborative.

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It’s difficult to express in words the devastation that a cancer diagnosis inflicts.

First, there’s the emotional rollercoaster — am I going to die? Can I beat this? What have I done to deserve this? How will I support my loved ones?

That’s followed by the physical toll of surgery, chemotherapy and drug treatments, which can reduce a person to a shell of their former self and make it difficult to get out of bed, much less work and carry on a normal life.

And then there’s the financial burden. The costs of modern health care often drive patients to bankruptcy and destroy nest eggs built with a lifetime of careful saving. For those living paycheck to paycheck or lacking adequate medical coverage, the impact can be even more catastrophic.

For decades, cancer patients from the North Coast dealing with all of this had to travel inland for specialist care, including chemotherapy, adding gas, meals, time and stress to their burden. Friends or family members had to drive them to Portland or Longview, a minimum of 50 miles and often almost 100 miles each way.

While the hardworking staffs at our hospitals in Astoria, Seaside and Ilwaco have been able to provide quality care for many kinds of serious ailments, much specialist cancer treatment had been beyond their capabilities.

Fast forward to today.

Cancer care is available right here in Astoria.

The CMH-OHSU Knight Cancer Collaborative with Oregon Health & Science University opened in Astoria in October.

The treatment facility and specialty clinic cost $16 million, $13 million of which came from bonds.

That left $3 million to raise from donations.

As reported last week, the Columbia Memorial Hospital Foundation hit that target in a remarkable grassroots effort.

How that happened is a commendable story that does this community proud and deserves thunderous applause.

Former Astoria Mayor Willis Van Dusen helped lead the way, spending hours using his contacts from business and civic life to ask for support. Columbia Memorial CEO Erik Thorsen, Dr. Jeffrey Leinassar, foundation board chairman Michael Autio and foundation executive director Penny Cowden were key players, too.

They began back in May 2015. They just kept asking and asking until the job was done, using all their considerable powers of persuasion.

More than 700 people donated and a large sum was raised from smaller donations. Such projects, however, need big benefactors, and several families and businesses stepped forward. The 15 top donors gave more than $50,000 each.

It was especially creditable that hospital staff members pitched in, too. Perhaps more than any other group, they realized the value of what they were supporting.

Now administrators expect about 3,000 patients to be treated each year at our region’s first cancer therapy center.

That’s 3,000 of our neighbors and loved ones stricken by all forms of cancer who will have the opportunity for crucial treatment close to home.

The foundation’s successful campaign must rank as one of the North Coast’s most significant success stories of recent years.

They saw a need. They identified others who stepped forward.

They asked and the community gave generously.

To all involved, please accept our thanks. You have truly done something to make a difference in people’s lives.



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