Indiana welcomes first Cancer Resource Center thanks to four women
By Elizabeth Scinta
Facility photos by Tyler Stewart
What started as a cancer diagnosis for Pat Harrison led to the first cancer resource center to be built in Clark County, Indiana. Harrison is a renowned real estate agent in New Albany for Re/Max One. When diagnosed with an early stage of breast cancer, she did not let that scare or stop her work. “Cancer is not the end of the world. It’s a let’s look at the situation, let’s come up with a solution, let’s get over it and let’s move on. I don’t think about cancer the way I used to. I think with the right people and the right surroundings it can kind of keep you going,” Harrison said.
Harrison urges women to get mammograms regularly because early detection is what saved her from having to do chemotherapy and radiation, according to Harrison. The first time she was checked, the doctors pronounced her cancer-free, but three months later, she had to have surgery, and now she is actually cancer-free. “If any message is to come from what happened to me, it’s get your mammograms and check on anything that doesn’t seem right with your body. Your body will tell you if something’s not right, so check it out,” Harrison said.
However, Harrison did not feel like the right resources were given to her after she underwent surgery. The building where Harrison was sent that was supposed to have additional resources, such as wig fittings and educational information, was more of a gray, excavated basement, according to Harrison. “It was more depressing than the diagnosis,” Harrison said.
Louisville has multiple cancer resource centers, but there were none on the Indiana side of the Ohio River. The resource centers in Louisville were receiving over 4,000 people from several counties in Indiana. That data showed the Norton Healthcare team that there was a significant need for a resource center in Indiana, according to Lynnie Meyer, senior vice president and chief development officer of Norton Healthcare.
Having this experience sparked Harrison into creating her own cancer resource center, so other people who are touched by cancer don’t have to go through the same unpleasant experience she did. Harrison immediately contacted her friend Joyce Meyer, CRPC®, senior vice president of UBS Wealth Management, to talk about what she had seen and how she wanted to fix it.
“Pat had never met my sister Lynnie Meyer with Norton Healthcare, but I told Pat, ‘If there’s anyone in the world that can help you, it might be my sister. She’s with Norton, so why don’t we set up a meeting?’ So Pat was all gung-ho and we set up a meeting at the Norton Cancer Center in downtown Louisville and she took her first tour of what was going on in Louisville with their cancer centers,” Joyce Meyer said.
Through a collaboration with Joyce Meyer, Lynnie Meyer and interior designer Leslie Lewis Sheets, Harrison made her idea a reality in March 2016 when the Norton Cancer Institute Pat Harrison Cancer Resource Center opened.
“Pat had a passion and she had survived cancer and been through her own cancer journey so she really wanted to be able to make a difference. When she came to Norton and said she wanted to partner with us, it was really bringing together an unbelievable opportunity with her passion and the need that still existed out in the region,” said Lynnie Meyer.
Directly across from the Clark Memorial Hospital stands the Pat Harrison Cancer Resource Center in a renovated historic home. “When you enter the Pat Harrison Cancer Resource Center, it’s not like you’re in a hospital, it’s like a home. There’s the aura of being present and all of the artwork is local artwork that reminds me of the barns out in the country and it’s supposed to put you at ease. We have the meditation garden in the backyard that is beautiful,” Harrison said.
The Pat Harrison Cancer Resource Center offers various services, such as mastectomy fitter services, music therapy, art therapy, tai chi, yoga, a lending library and a variety of wigs and hats to choose from. The mastectomy services offered are unique to the Pat Harrison Cancer Resource Center, according to Lynnie Meyer. All of the services are free and funded by donations from donors and the annual Norton Healthcare Power of Pink Gala. The gala has raised more than $180,000 for the Pat Harrison Cancer Resource Center, according to Lynnie Meyer.
Leslie Lewis Sheets, the Pat Harrison Cancer Resource Center interior designer, had worked on the house before for a previous project, so she was already familiar with the space when it came to designing it. Sheets played up the home’s original architecture by keeping the large windows to allow for more natural light. She used warm colors and peaceful artwork of familiar local landscapes that she thought would comfort people during a difficult time. Harrison was adamant about having an area for women to try on wigs, so Sheets designed a room to look like a salon.
“When you’re there, it’s like walking into a friendly, welcoming environment. You’re automatically in a peace-filled space when you enter so it helps comfort you when you’re undergoing a very scary, challenging situation,” Sheets said.
A meditation garden was added in the backyard with a piece of Indiana Limestone and is full of bricks with donors’ names on them, which is very special to Harrison. “Often the donors are people that we’ve never heard of, but my donors are people who are still alive that have donated to it. It’s nice to see names that you know are still around that have had cancer in their family or something and they’re donating [to us],” Harrison said.
These four women worked together to create a space that produced a welcoming and calming environment for those affected by cancer. “What a group of women [to work with]. Over the years I’ve set up a group that we call Power Women and there’s 13 of them. But these women, honestly, could control all of Southern Indiana. You’ve really got some leadership there and they think outside the box. They’re energetic galore, they never say no to anything and if they can do it they’re going to do it and they don’t hesitate,” Harrison said.
In 2020, The Pat Harrison Cancer Resource Center has been operating virtually and will continue to do so until further notice. To make an appointment, call 812.288.1156.
Norton Cancer Institute
Pat Harrison Cancer Resource Center
1206 Spring St.
Jeffersonville, IN 47130