Finding Comfort in the Details
It’s the little things that make the biggest impression, at least according to Nick and Amanda Sundstrom. The weight and stress of battling cancer can burden even the most steadfast hearts, and Nick was no exception when he was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in 2016. The road to recovery is rarely easy, and though Nick would eventually make stunning progress towards wellness, he says the difficulties of living with cancer weighed on him constantly, making the creature comforts and programs of the Stephenson Cancer Center a much appreciated resource when he needed them most.
“There’s not a lot of places in Oklahoma that can do what Stephenson can,” Nick says, “If you have to come back for a lot of treatments like I had to, every day, every week, it’s nice to have a comfortable place to sit down, have some coffee, and feel at home when you’re about to get radiation.”
Amanda adds, “The one thing I noticed the first time we came here was how warm and homey it felt. The lighting, the furniture, it doesn’t feel sterile like a hospital. They put so much work into the details. There’s books and puzzles on every floor, there’s little coffee stations, a snack cart, it’s all of those tiny details. A cancer center is never going to be your favorite place to be, but they try so hard to make things as comfortable as possible.”
Nick and Amanda say their impression was more than just skin deep however. Beyond the aesthetics, the couple was uplifted by the courtesy, knowledge, and professionalism of the staff they worked with.
“One thing that always sticks out to me is the level of patient care. It’s not just medical care, they work on building relationships,” Amanda says, “Our appointments are spaced farther apart now, and they still know who we are and pick up our conversations from three months ago. I’ve never experienced anything like that in any medical setting.”
For Nick, building relationships in Stephenson’s distinctive Young Adult Cancer Support Group was a critical way to stay positive through the program’s organic approach to fostering friendships. Whether it’s roasting coffee, a trip to the bowling lanes, or a building a personal terrarium, the support group focuses on activities that facilitate natural communication and team building, rather than a forced or artificial commentary that might leave participants feeling uncomfortable or awkward.
“Recently I was dealing with some sort of depression and didn’t know why, and thought a support group might help,” Nick says, “For me it was a really laid back atmosphere. There’s always something to do, you’re not just meeting in a room to talk about all your sadness and frustration. It was easy to just go there and hang out.”
But perhaps most important of all to the couple was the massive number services clustered in and around the Stephenson Cancer Center. Rather than trekking back and forth across the country for the treatments they needed, Nick says that Stephenson was able to meet all of his needs in one location, allowing him to stay as close as possible to friends, family, and home.
“I’m almost done with my treatment, but I can’t imagine anyone else having to deal with travelling everywhere,” Nick concludes, “It’s so important for donors to support a place where patients can have all their treatments taken care of at once.”