“This was a good place for us to land, even before we knew it was cancer,” shares Jo Van De Berg, wife and caregiver of Dave Van De Berg, a head and neck cancer patient at the Helen G. Nassif Community Cancer Center. Van De Berg, a Sumner, Iowa native and retired teacher, was diagnosed with stage three nasopharyngeal carcinoma, a type of head and neck cancer, in February 2019.
Previous health problems led Van De Berg to other facilities for care over the years. Places where, as Van De Berg describes, patients are simply a number. “Since we arrived at the Community Cancer Center we can sense there is genuine concern for my well-being. The staff make me feel like an individual, not just another patient,” says Van De Berg.
According to Van De Berg, one of the most unique aspects of his experience is that he knows his care team well, “We met the whole team face-to-face the same day he was diagnosed and we were rolling!” says Mrs. Van De Berg. Van De Berg’s care team includes Dr. Michael Telisak, MD, FACS, physician at Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa (PCI) Ear, Nose and Throat and practicing physician at the Community Cancer Center, Beth Beckett, RD, CSO, LD, dietitian at the Community Cancer Center, Dr. Bharat Jenigiri, MD, physician at PCI Hematology and Oncology and practicing physician at the Community Cancer Center, along with several others.
“With head and neck cancer comes a high risk for malnutrition,” shares Beckett. “Some of the side effects from chemo and radiation treatments include pain while eating, decreased appetite, gastro-intestinal side effects, difficulty swallowing and changes in taste,” she explains. Beckett has coordinated Van De Berg’s feeding tube and visits with him often for regular check-ins.
“Beth has been the best,” says Mrs. Van De Berg, “We’re never pushed. We feel informed and prepared, and I know she’ll give us a nudge if we need it.”
Throughout treatment Mrs. Van De Berg has participated in support programs at the Community Cancer Center such as mediation, tai chi and the Caregiver’s Quality of Life Retreat. These services are available to patients, caregivers and their families regardless of when they were diagnosed or received treatment.
Van De Berg is in the process of receiving chemo and radiation treatment at UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s Nassif Radiation Center. He’ll also receive ongoing care and communication with his team at the Community Cancer Center during and after treatment. To learn more about programs and services at the Community Cancer Center, please call (319) 558-4876.