Darelene Samagalski expected a “very clinical, sombre place” the first time she visited the Cross Cancer Institute for breast cancer treatment in 1997. But as soon as she walked through the front doors and saw the bookstore, she breathed a sigh of relief. “I thought, ‘This is my kind of place,’” she says.
With plenty of books to read, and so many friendly volunteers and staff, the Cross Cancer Institute became a hopeful place for Samagalski to receive care, which included many rounds of chemo and radiation.
When the cancer returned 12 years later, Samagalski wasn’t afraid of the road ahead. “I trusted the Cross because I had such a good experience the first time,” she says. Now stable, she’s one of many former patients choosing to give back to the Cross as a volunteer — naturally, she works in the bookstore. “I wanted to be part of a place where, when people walk in, there’s a little bit of normalcy.”
Since 1968, the Cross Cancer Institute has treated hundreds of thousands of patients with its trademark blend of compassion and cutting-edge medical science.
“The culture here is one of compassion and caring, as well as innovation,” says Paula Germann, the Cross Cancer Institute’s site director. Nowadays, the Cross treats about 6,500 adult patients each year, including people hailing from across Alberta, as well as British Columbia, Saskatchewan and elsewhere in Canada. According to Germann, the Cross is also a place of game-changing cancer research. “We’re a highly sought-after site for clinical trials,” she says.
This summer marks the Cross Cancer Institute’s 50th anniversary, a milestone that staff recently observed with celebrations that included a barbecue, a games day, the sharing of patient stories, and the opening of a time capsule. “Everyone here [has been] really excited,” says Germann. “It’s a real honour and I think people are proud of our site and what we do.”
With so many improvements to cancer care over the last five decades, Germann is also excited to see what the next 50 years will bring. “Our patients are experiencing a better quality of life, living longer, and they have more treatments than they once did,” she says. “If past predicts the future, I think we will continue to be successful in all of our care for patients.”