Mercy Health Foundation is presently on a mission to raise $2 million for a linear accelerator. Mercy Health Systems will be investing an additional $6 million of capital funds in this project. This equipment would replace the existing linear accelerator, which is nearing the end of its projected life.

Why so expensive? Because it’s not just the purchase of the accelerator. Mercy will also need to create an appropriate building to house it. Life-saving radiation for cancer patients must be contained within cement walls that are several feet thick to limit exposure to those who administer it and to the population at large. The current equipment will continue to be used during the extensive remodeling that will be needed to add space for the new accelerator.

I can speak from personal experience that this is a great asset to the Clinton area.

The day before Thanksgiving 2011, I was diagnosed with uterine cancer. I was living in Knoxville at the time. Though they have a great hospital, they were unable to provide the surgical care I needed and they have no facilities for chemo and radiation treatments in town.

I was referred to Dr. Deborah Turner, a top-notch gynecologic oncologist and surgeon in Des Moines. She performed a hysterectomy on December 5, 2011, and declared me cancer-free. However, she rated my cancer as Stage I, grade 3, due to its location in proximity to lymph nodes. She recommended radiation as an “insurance policy” to eradicate any cancer cells that may have found their way into my system.

Enter Dr. John Martens, a radiation oncologist with Mercy Cancer Center in Des Moines. He began a series of 25 external radiation treatments – five days a week for five weeks – followed by two internal treatments that were scheduled a week apart. I drove 50 minutes each way to Des Moines for treatment from the middle of January to the end of February, and two more times for the internal treatments.

During that time, I was able to continue working full time as the publisher of the newspapers in Knoxville and Pella, scheduling my radiation appointments in Des Moines for late in the afternoon. I was fortunate inasmuch as I suffered no side effects from the radiation and had only one day of bad winter weather to contend with on the 100-mile roundtrip drive.

I can directly attribute the success of my treatment to the intervention of my physicians in Knoxville, the staffs of each physician and at the hospital, my medical team of Drs. Turner and Martens, and the availability of the linear accelerator 50 miles from my home. I owe them my life.

Which brings me to today and the purpose for this letter.

I certainly didn’t know when I celebrated New Year’s Day 2011 that I would be facing cancer treatment along with my Thanksgiving dinner! I was fortunate on so many levels that I could never repay the kindness and professionalism that was shown to me from so many people during the last months of 2011 and the first months of 2012.

And I’m still fortunate, in that I have been given the opportunity to pay it forward.

I hope neither I nor my family will ever need the services of the linear accelerator at Mercy in Clinton. But, just as somebody had made sure that help was there for me in Des Moines, I can be a part of making sure that help is here for somebody in our area who needs it. And, while it’s do-able to drive 50 or more miles each way for daily radiation treatments, it’s the last thing anybody wants to do when they are fighting for their lives against their cancer diagnosis!

The efforts of the Foundation to date have resulted in over $1 million pledged to the purchase and installation of a new linear accelerator. We’re pushing to meet and exceed our goal of $2 million and get this project started for the people of Clinton and the surrounding area.

This first-class medical service has been available here for several years. Please do what you can to make sure it stays here and continues to provide hope and healing to those afflicted by cancer.

Every contribution counts!

Maureen Miller,


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