Our Voice: Avera makes $11 million vow to fight cancer

Farm Forum

It is a shame that cancer is so common, so mysterious and deadly that the cancer “industry” is booming.

We are very thankful and fortunate that Avera St. Luke’s Hospital is at the front lines of the fight.

An $11 million expansion of cancer services and resources is a significant commitment to catching, treating and beating this disease in northeast South Dakota.

The new center will make it easier for patients and loved ones to get care close to home, rather than traveling to Fargo, N.D., or Sioux Falls.

Longtime Aberdeen oncologist Dr. Richard Conklin — in fact, the only full-time, practicing oncologist in the city — told reporter Jeff Natalie-Lees about the dire need for cancer services in this area:

• About 8,000 new cancer cases are diagnosed in the Dakotas each year, Conklin said.

• One hundred to 150 patients visit the current Avera Cancer Care Center each day, he said.

• Conklin said his practice has been steadily increasing over the years and now has about 17,000 visits a year.

Those are staggering, saddening numbers.

Designs for the center have not yet been released, but hospital officials say the new addition to St. Luke’s would be at least five times bigger than the current 6,000-square-foot cancer center. The project will likely take two to three years for completion.

If trends continue, who knows what the need for cancer services will be by 2016?

It’s frightening to think about.

Now, Avera gets into the fundraising aspect. To that end, they have no less than Don and Carmen Meyer lending their names, reputation and goodwill to the cause.

Meyer, former Northern State University men’s basketball coach, is receiving cancer treatment at Avera Medical Group Oncology and Hematology Aberdeen. So this fight is especially personal for him and his family.

He knows just what cancer patients are going through.

“You go down there (to the cancer center) and see them fighting it every day,” Meyer said in our Sunday story. “Those are the real cancer warriors.”

The best news would be that hospitals could cut back on services because cancer is a thing of the past. Barring that medical breakthrough, this project is a great step in the fight against this enemy.

— American News editorial board