Within six months of announcing the launch of a community funding campaign to build a comprehensive and accessible Cancer Center, Renton’s Valley Medical Center has raised enough money and will begin construction on the center in January 2024.
“The pandemic impacted every facet of this project, from the timeline of supply chain to finance, everything. It’s astonishing, really that we are actually able to make it to this point tonight,” said Valley Medical Center CEO Jeannine Erickson Grinnell, who spoke at an official “skybreaking” celebration ceremony on Dec. 14. “I celebrate the dawning of a new era in patient care and experience coming soon grown quality patients in South King County. This building will house a new comprehensive Cancer Center and expand access to services that our community needs right here in their backyard.”
During the skybreaking celebration — different from a groundbreaking ceremony because the building was already standing — there were several speakers who relayed the importance of the new Cancer Center to the area and their own experiences with the hospital’s oncology department.
Renton Mayor Armando Pavone and Kent Mayor Dana Ralph — who underwent treatment for breast cancer in 2016 — spoke about the impact the Cancer Center will have on the diverse population of South King County.
“South King County deserves this. We deserve to have a world-class facility,” said Mayor Ralph.
Manager of Infusion Services Chermaine Wulff was among the speakers who shared their stories of working in limited spaces and thanking their colleagues for their hard work in helping patients.
“We see about 79 to 90 patients a day. That’s about 25,000 visits per year. Our most immediate need for our capacity will be addressed here in the Cancer Center,” said Wulff. “Cancer is the number one leading cause of death in our community. We want to be part of that community, we want to be part of that answer.”
Valley Girls & Guys was the first entity to donate to the Cancer Center, having given $1.8 million in June 2023, and its founder Tina McDonough spoke at the ceremony. McDonough talked about having lost a friend and her mother to cancer and how the Cancer Center would have made treatment easier for her mother.
“It would have changed the way she got her services,” she said. “My mom would have been able to park in the parking garage, walked across the Bridge of Hope and come in to all the smiley faces that are going to take care of her each day and [have it all] be in one building. And that’s the future that I see here.”
McDonough shared her idea of having people or organizations donate to one of the 41 chairs that will be in the Infusion Center, which will be the first part of the Cancer Center to be built. The cost of each chair is $6,000.
“What if each chair that we get a donation for, we personalize it and we can honor a loved one,” she said. “We can honor somebody that’s been here or a business leader in our community, or an entire family. How powerful could this be?”
According to McDonough, over half of the money for the chairs has already been raised, with 20 committed chairs and nine probables.
Jon Nagasawa, a “cancer thriver” as Erickson Grinnell called him, shared his story of being diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer and the care he received from Dr. Navanshu Arora and the nurses and staff, whom he called his “angels.”
“Days after surgery, I was awakened and saw a person at the foot of my bed dressed in all white,” Nagasawa said. “I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming or if I had entered the entrance to the Pearly Gates. Then, I heard the calm voice that told me ‘everything will be fine, we’re going to help you get through this.’ The voice was so reassuring and confident and immediately put me at ease. This was the first time I met Dr. Arora.”
Nagasawa said that the staff has become like a second family.
“I am not yet cancer-free, but someday, I hope I get to ring the bell. I stand here today because of all all these wonderful people,” he said.
The last speakers were donors Trapper and Samantha O’Keefe of Trapper’s Sushi. Samantha was once a Valley Medical cancer patient, and the two spoke about how her treatment had inspired them to partner with Valley Girls & Guys — and why they are major donors to the oncology department at Valley Medical.
“Our ‘why’ is because we don’t know when [cancer is] going to affect somebody else and if we can make a difference, we’re going to make a difference,” said Trapper.
Along with state-of-the-art electrochromic windows that will help deflect harsh light, the Cancer Center will include several key facilities:
• Infusion Center: The Infusion Center will be the first focus of the Cancer Center, as it will offer a variety of treatments for cancer. It will be designed to be more open, allowing better patient interactions. There will be a 40% capacity increase of infusion patients in the Cancer Center.
• Compounding Pharmacy: Patient wait time will decrease due to easy accessibility to necessary and often volatile medications needed for cancer treatment.
• Acute Symptom Management Clinic: Designed for patients who may have same-day side effects from cancer treatment, this “mini emergency department” would allow patients treatment that could otherwise require them to go a regular emergency room.
• Oncology and Hematology Clinic: Along with the Infusion Center, this clinic will be where each patient will meet with their medical oncologists and hematologists.
• Supportive Care Clinic: An extra form of support for patients, this clinic will focus on helping patients with pain relief and stress that comes from having a serious illness.
• Multidisciplinary Clinic: An important part of the Cancer Center, this clinic will allow newly-diagnosed patients to consult with their oncology specialists all on the same day, something that often requires long wait times and multiple visits.
• Fast Track Rooms: These smaller infusion rooms are designed for appointments that are under 30 minutes or for patients that prefer more privacy.
• Laboratory: This on-site lab will provide data and shorter wait times for results.
• Reception: A large waiting space will open the Cancer Center where patients will check-in.
• Café: A comfortable area for caregivers and patients, the café will offer food, beverages, views and space to rest.
• Valley Girls & Guys Bridge of HOPE: Built in 2021, this sky bridge allows easy access to the Cancer Center from Parking Garage C.
• Trapper & Samantha Wellbeing Support Center: Donated by Trapper and Samantha O’Keeffe of Trapper’s Sushi, this support center will provide free resources and entertainment for cancer patients to help make treatment a little easier.