Day Kimball Hospital’s Rose Bove LaRose Cancer Center has all the bells and whistles - with emphasis on the bells. Patients who complete their cancer treatment at the Center ring a ship's bell stationed in the chemo room as a meaningful way to mark an important milestone and celebrate their survival.
On September 24, it was Rick Ouellette’s turn to ring the “cancer free bell,” having reached the end of his chemotherapy treatment.
The 63-year-old Killingly resident’s journey began in February 2019 when he presented with a lump in his neck and armpit. He made an appointment with his long-standing primary care physician, Dr. David Wilterdink at Day Kimball Healthcare.
“That’s where I’ve always gone,” said Ouellette. “Day Kimball is close to home, and it’s comforting to be at a familiar place.”
After a health scare in 2008, Ouellette fearfully, but fatefully predicted the worst. Numerous exploratory medical tests and exams quickly confirmed Ouellette’s suspicion; he had cancer.
Diagnosed with stage 3 diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, Ouellette became the first person in his immediate family to experience cancer.
Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) is a cancer that starts in white blood cells and usually grows in lymph nodes – glands in your neck, groin, armpits, and elsewhere that are part of your immune system. DLBCL is the most common and aggressive form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The good news, a majority of people are disease-free after treatment, and many are cured.
Ouellette’s oncologist ordered aggressive chemotherapy treatment due to the widespread presence of the cancer in his lymph nodes. Over a three-month period beginning in June, he received six rounds of chemotherapy treatments administered in the Hospital’s Cancer Center every three weeks.
Ouellette maintained an upbeat attitude during his diagnosis and treatments. Although he admits “chemo isn’t fun, there have been a few days that it really beats you up” he said his energy was strong and he felt good.
“I stayed motivated and had a great support network of family and friends who helped in any way they could,” he shared. During his cancer treatment, he was able to dedicate more time to nurturing his passion for birdwatching and beekeeping. Over the summer, Ouellette created a pollinator habitat in his backyard which he calls “Samantha’s Hilltop Sanctuary,” in memory of his black Labrador.
An interdisciplinary team, including board-certified hematologists/oncologists, nurses, a nurse navigator, a nutritionist, and a social worker, became trusted sources of advice and guidance for Ouellette throughout his care at Day Kimball.
While his treatment plan was aggressive, Ouellette was surprised, and delighted by the upbeat atmosphere of the Cancer Center. “I would like to emphasize my gratitude to my entire care team who helped me fight the cancer that was rapidly moving through my body,” he shared. “Their incredible skills, techniques, encouragement and compassion made this process survivable. The dedication of these doctors, nurses and staff to saving my life and the lives of others is something I will be eternally thankful for.”
Ouellette is grateful that he was able to get the help he needed at Day Kimball Hospital. “At Day Kimball, I got the treatment I needed, so close to home,” said Ouellette. “Everything was available to me right here, to get me through the journey. It’s hard to imagine how much that means, unless you’ve been through this.”
A true naturalist, Ouellette looks forward to winding down his career in residential construction to focus on nourishing his gardening and landscaping interests. He also looks forward to regaining his strength through the local YMCA’s LIVESTRONG® program which offers adults affected by cancer a safe, supportive environment to participate in physical and social activities focused on strengthening the whole person.
“Dealing with cancer is a tough journey in itself,” added Ouellette. “It’s important for the Northeast Connecticut community to know it doesn’t have to take you far from home. We have compassionate, first-rate cancer care right here at our community hospital.”
Day Kimball Healthcare recently welcomed Carmen Pisc, MD, and Gino Bottino, MD, both board-certified and fellowship-trained medical oncologists, to the Rose Bove LaRose Cancer Center at Day Kimball Hospital in Putnam.
The hematology/oncology unit at the Rose Bove LaRose Cancer Center at Day Kimball Hospital brings together a group of specialists and medical services to provide comprehensive cancer diagnosis and treatment right here in Northeast Connecticut. DKH’s national accredited Cancer Care program exceeds the standards established by the Commission on Cancer.
PHOTO CAPTION: (l to r): Erica Trudeau, Kathy Hayes, Marissa Marwell, BSN, RN, Katherine Tartaglia, BSN, RN, OCN, Rick Ouellette, Phyllis Kelliher, APRN, OCN, Vanmaly Sangasy MSN, FNP, Denise Spirito, RN, Anne Alves, Megan Herrick gather in the Rose Bove LaRose Cancer Center in a celebratory moment in Ouellette’s cancer journey.