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Healthcare Quarterly
Harmony Hill Retreat Center to host collaborative event for cancer patients

Harrison Medical Center is leading an effort to organize a cancer survivors’ fair that is being hosted at Harmony Hill Retreat Center in collaboration with several Olympic and Kitsap peninsula health-care organizations. The sponsors and organizers include Franciscan Health System, MultiCare Regional Cancer Center, Peninsula Cancer Center, Kitsap Cancer Services, Olympic Medical Cancer Center (Port Angeles), Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and Harrison Medical Center Foundation.

The fair, on Oct. 23, will offer workshops for cancer patients and survivors and their immediate caregivers, while also help residents of the two peninsulas learn about services provided at Harmony Hill Retreat. The center, located in Union, about 30 minutes from Belfair, offers regular events to cancer patients and caregivers for free, as well as various wellness programs and facility rental options to the general public.

Ed Smith, director of the Oncology Service Line at Harrison Medical Center, said the concept for the retreat was born when Harmony Hill staff visited Harrison last year, and the two nonprofits began discussing ways they could collaborate. When the cancer survivor fair was discussed, it was expanded so it not only benefits Harrison patients, but all cancer survivors in Puget Sound.

The participating health-care organizations are jointly providing funds for marketing, staff to help organize the fair, as well as experts on various topics for presentations. “It’s been a very efficient, low-cost way to provide what we hope will be a high-quality event,” Smith said.

The workshops are free, and participants can opt to stay overnight at Harmony Hill’s for a fee. “That’s an important option because Harmony Hill depends on lodging for funding its classes,” Smith said.

The event is the first collaboration of its kind for organizations serving cancer patients in West Sound. Franciscan Health System’s cancer program founded an annual cancer survivor conference in Pierce County in 2009 that involves a similar collaborative effort with groups such as MultiCare. “Collaboration is important because cancer survivorship is growing,” said Jamie Dobosz, manager for Franciscan’s Cancer Program. She said 60 percent of cancer patients served by FHS survive five years or longer, and the organization follows about 35,000 patients through its cancer registry.

“Our reason for being part of the event is that we are committed to cancer survivors in our community,” she said. “…We thought it was a nice opportunity to do something for residents of the Peninsula.”

Harmony Hill Retreat Center, which will mark its 25th anniversary next year, serves about 450 cancer patients and caregivers every year through its free retreats and seminars. The center has 35 beds for overnight stay, and has been growing in the past few years to offer more programs. The goal is to nearly double the number of patients served by 2015 by adding more beds.

The center has also been expanding its programs, both for cancer patients and for the general public. One of its recent additions, for example, was a retreat for men with prostate cancer. A retreat program for nurses was also launched within the past year, focusing on nurse renewal. Harrison is among the organizations whose nurses have been participating in the program.

Cindy Shank, program manager at Harmony Hill Retreat Center, said the collaborative effort behind the October fair makes the event unique, along with the presenters coming from the various sponsoring organizations. “Our goal for the event is to focus on West Sound, which is typically underserved,” she said. “We want to let people know who we are and what we do, but we also want to let them know about the other organizations and what they offer.”

The West/South Sound Cancer Survivorship Fair on Saturday, Oct. 23 is free but registration is required. Workshop topics will include nutrition, yoga, surviving chemotherapy and others.

A shuttle will be available from the Thomas Family Cancer Center in Sequim and the Port Townsend Park & Ride; a second shuttle will pick up participants from the Harrison Hematology & Oncology Clinic in Poulsbo, Harrison’s Silverdale Hospital and the Harrison oncology center in Bremerton. Participants must reserve a bus spot with their registration.

Brochures with registration forms are available from the participating organizations and may also be requested by e-mailing cancersupport [at] harrisonmedical [dot] org or calling (360) 550-2486. For more information about Harmony Hill Retreat Center or to book an overnight stay, go to www.HarmonyHill.org.

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