The Dempsey Center Helps Heal Through Cancer's Heartbreak
I was lucky enough to spend the weekend in Maine. Although a beautiful state with many sights to see, I was specifically there for one reason. I was there for the Dempsey Challenge and to visit the Dempsey Center. I was introduced to all the Dempsey Center stood for this past spring with meeting Patrick Dempsey at CURE’s Extraordinary Healer awards.
There are many things that make Dempsey Center special. Chief amongst them is that they are not treating cancer. They are treating all the things that come secondary to cancer, healing hearts and giving hope to those touched by cancer. What they are doing here in Maine is much needed because while everyone wishes that there will be a cure one day, that day is not today. The Dempsey Center knows that and thrives in all that they are trying to accomplish.
When you walk up to the center, it sits in an unadorned building that fits in among the others. The elevator doors open on the 5th floor, and it is apparent that the Dempsey family has faced cancer. It is a feeling that is hard to describe, but for somebody who had never been before, it feels like home. It is calmly colored with a living room décor. There are rooms designated for nearly every service that one going through cancer may possibly need or desire.
From the “Stardust” room, dedicated in memoriam to David Bowie where patients can be fitted for wigs and make-up services to a state-of-the-art kitchen where cooking classes are given, they seemingly thought of it all. Of the many rooms and services, two specifically caught my attention. The first being Amanda’s Garden. Named after Patrick’s Mom, it is literally a room with a garden. A certain serenity takes hold when you enter, I cannot think of anything more needed than simple peace for somebody going through cancer.
The second room that stays in my mind is for youth and family services. Bins are marked and filled to the brim with craft supplies and fidget toys. Blankets and bright colors welcome the young hearts and souls who have been touched by cancer. My sister was a young adult patient and could have benefited from many of the services offered at the Dempsey Center. The most important piece of this program is that they acknowledge that everybody experiences cancer differently, especially our youth populous.
It was a concept born not only out of heartbreak from having cancer in one’s life, but the reality that more was needed for both patients and family members. And I hesitate when I use the word patient here, because Dempsey Center seemingly does everything to avoid placing the burden on the one afflicted by cancer. Patrick Dempsey was directly impacted by cancer. While that is an obvious statement to make, it matters. In creating this center, he had the people affected by the disease in mind.
At the Dempsey Center, there is a simple reality that cancer does not discriminate, and so neither do they. It matters not if you have, had or may have cancer. If cancer has touched your life in any way, the Dempsey Center is there through it all. No medical referral is needed. Whether you live locally or globally, the services are available to you. There is no cap to services and everything is offered free of charge. No time frame exists for treatment, either. Some seek care immediately after their diagnosis, and others have sought it long after they have lost a loved one.
It was absolutely remarkable to hear so many stories of those who have been able to utilize all that Dempsey Center offers. Through a partnership this past spring, they will begin expanding into a second center. Personally, I would love to see them all across the country, not just in name, but in the same message and care mission that is being so effectively being deployed in Maine.