Lisa MacEachern-Burns understands the stress of packing up for a 10-hour round trip for medical appointments in Halifax.
The Cape Breton woman was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma four years ago after finding a lump near her collarbone.
At the time, MacEachern-Burns was 33. She and her husband were also caring for two young children at home.
"It was quite stressful. I was obviously trying to protect my children at the time," she said.
"I was on maternity leave, so this obviously was an added financial stress, mental health stress and of course, physical stress."
Patient care at home
MacEachern-Burns spoke during Wednesday's launch of the $10-million Cancer Care Here at Home campaign, which aims to support the development of a new cancer centre behind the regional hospital in Sydney, N.S.
The project will nearly double the current Cape Breton Cancer Centre's patient capacity. The facility, built in 1998, was designed for 16,000 patient visits each year, but now handles more than 45,000 patients visits a year.
MacEachern-Burns said although trips to Halifax for medical scans were necessary during her illness, fortunately much of her treatment was available at a hospital nearby.
"I was able to surround myself with my family," said the cancer survivor. "I was able to try to be the strong parent that I needed to be for my kids, and I don't know if my medical journey would have been the same if I wasn't able to be at home."
Donations pouring in
Paula MacNeil is CEO of the Cape Breton Hospital Foundation, which has launched the fundraiser.
She said the campaign has already raised $4.4 million, including a $1-million contribution from Cape Breton business mogul Annette Verschuren and husband, Stan Shibinsky.
"People have been very, very receptive to the cause," MacNeil said.
"Most people have a cancer story and most people can relate. And having the ability to have cancer care right here at home is important to people."
MacNeil said $6.5 million of the money raised will go toward new equipment purchases for things such as a gamma camera, dedicated ultrasound and a echocardiogram machine.
Another $2 million will support research, while the remaining $1.5 million will go toward patient programming.
MacNeil said excavation work is underway on the new cancer centre, and a concrete foundation should be poured within a month or so.
The project is slated for completion in 2025.
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