IDAHO FALLS, Idaho - The Teton Cancer Institute opened its doors Friday in Idaho Falls. The center is an affiliate of Mountain View Hospital. It serves as a full services cancer center for people across the region.
The facility will make it easier for patients seeking treatment to stay in eastern Idaho instead of traveling to Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City or to Boise for treatment.
"It's not only allows us to serve the people of Idaho Falls but also serve as a regional referral center for patients as far away as Jackson Hole, Wyoming or Salmon. We get patients all over southeast Idaho, western Wyoming. Even western Montana," said oncologist Dr. Christian Shull.
Teton Cancer Institute has a pediatric chemotherapy room and 18 treatment bays for adults.
Gary Cook was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer in October 2012. He visited the doctor after suffering from nausea. A routine check-up ended with a cancer diagnosis. He travelled to Salt Lake City for treatment and said the option of having treatment in Idaho Falls will save him time and money.
"I have a cancer called linitis plastica which is commonly referred to as stomach cancer," said Cook.
Cook's cancer had spread to nearly his entire stomach. He began having a hard time eating.
"Chicken noodle soup became my favorite meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner," said Cook with a chuckle.
His first round of chemotherapy came with all the side effects. "I was starting to lose my hair. Of course it's gray anyway," he said with his signature sense of humor when he talks about the challenges he faces with cancer.
Enduring the nausea and hair-loss of chemotherapy paid off. By May 2013 Cook was in remission. "I took a chemo holiday," said Cook. He visited Mesa Verde with his daughter and grandkids.
But the holiday was short lived, A PET scan when he returned shows his cancer had come back.
"It's still hard to realize, hey, I'm 71 years old and I otta be enjoying life instead of, but hey you got to do what you got to do," said Cook.
Now receiving his second round of chemo, he passes the time at Teton Cancer Institute reading books, watching DVD's and sharing stories with the staff. He said life is easier going through treatment close to home.
Even though he is unsure why cancer chose him, he said Teton Cancer Institute has become his second home, and the staff, a second family.
Cancer may bring challenges for Cook, but it has taught him to cherish life a little more.
"It makes it a lot more dear. ‘Cause you don't know," said Cook.
Mountain View Hospital said they diagnose up to 22 new cancer patients a week.
The Teton Cancer Institute also has an in-house lab where doctors make chemotherapy. The laboratory provides patients with little to no wait time for receiving the drug treatment.