A Champion of Local Cancer Care
There are many reasons why people love living and working in rural Maine. Everything from outdoor activities to tight knit communities can be very appealing. But, when someone is living with a serious medical condition like cancer, accessing high quality treatment can be frustrating and time consuming.
Jane Hibbard Merrill knows the harsh realities of managing a cancer diagnosis when living in small-town Maine. A native of Dexter and a resident of Dover-Foxcroft since the early 1960s, Jane, a cancer survivor herself, has supported two close family members as they fought colon cancer.
Many years ago, her first husband, Gary, was diagnosed with colon cancer when he was only 37 years old. At the time, he was running the day-to-day operations of Hibbard Nursing Home, which was established by his father, Emery, and mother, Virginia, in 1955. Jane, who is a licensed practical nurse (LPN), also worked at the nursing home.
After three years, Gary lost his battle, and Jane took over the management of Hibbard Nursing Home. She successfully oversaw the home’s growth and development—adding wings for more beds and Main Street 223West for assisted living. She retired in 2013 and sold the facility to Rosscare and First Atlantic.
She also stayed very busy raising two daughters, Tracy and Melissa. Sadly, at the same age as her father, 37, Tracy received the devastating news that she too had colon cancer. For the next 15 years Tracy sought out experimental and advanced treatments around the country, while raising three children: Aliza, Alex, and Josh. Unfortunately, after many years, treatments and surgeries, Tracy succumbed to the metastasized cancer at age 52.
Importantly, while Tracy did travel to receive advanced treatments, she was able to receive her regular chemotherapy treatments locally, at the site of the “old” Mayo Hospital. “When Tracy would receive her chemotherapy treatments, I remember the set-up was not very comfortable or private,” recalls Jane. “Tracy and I felt strongly that a dedicated oncology center located at the hospital would benefit area residents, like Tracy, who needed chemotherapy and other cancer-related services. That’s when I reached out to Dr. McDermott and offered to donate $250,000 to help make a positive change.”
Northern Light Mayo Hospital Vice President of Medical Affairs and Senior Physician Executive David McDermott, MD, MPH, CPE, FAAFP, FAAPL comments, “Jane’s contribution helped to give us a unique identity for the oncology/infusion center at Mayo Hospital. She was intimately involved in design decisions for the space, bringing the perspective of the patient and family experience to inform our decisions in design and building of the Tracy Hibbard Kasprzak Center.”
The Tracy Hibbard Kasprzak Cancer Treatment Center was dedicated on September 23, 2017. The center features patient rooms designed for comfort and privacy during chemotherapy treatments, a transfusion area, telemedicine capability, and private consultation rooms. It has four treatment bays and two exam rooms, each with bedside smart TVs. The treatment center has a comfortable waiting room and a refreshment station.
Northern Light Mayo Hospital President Marie Vienneau, FACHE comments,
“We are so grateful for Jane’s generosity. I had the privilege to work side by side with her to plan this center and it has made a measurable difference to care in our region.”
There is a certified medical assistant to help with patients as well as other duties. The kitchen provides hot meals and fresh food from the Christine B. Foundation for patients, and dietary consults are offered to the patients to assist them in maintaining a healthy weight and to address any side effects from chemotherapy. Financial assistance and social services are also available as needed.
The Center is staffed by oncology certified registered nurses, and an oncologist travels from Northern Light Cancer Care in Brewer to provide monthly oncology consultations for both new and follow up patient visits.
Ultimately, Jane’s vision, borne of personal experience and a desire to provide improved experiences for others in Piscataquis County, became a reality that has helped patients and families throughout the region. According to Denise Scuderi, BSN, RN, vice president, Patient Care Services, Northern Light Mayo Hospital, “Jane’s generous donation was the catalyst to spotlight the oncology services that are provided at our community hospital. It was important to Jane that we be able to provide a home-like atmosphere for our patients during their cancer treatment in addition to receiving quality care. This was very important to Jane since the oncology center is in memory of her daughter, Tracy Hibbard Kasprzak, who also trusted us with her care.”