Huntsman Cancer Institute is the place to be

The waiting room of Clinic A in the Huntsman Cancer Institute tries its best to create the most comfortable spot in the world. I’ve got to hand it to the interior designer, whose use of richly toned woods and comfortable furniture has mildly calmed spurts of panic in the heart of this 22-year-old patient.

“This is a very impressive building,” the woman across from me whispers to the man with whom she is sipping coffee.

I introduced myself to the woman, who told me her name was Carol. Through our discussion I discovered that — though we’re different in many ways — the Huntsman Cancer Institute provides levels of comfort that people like Carol and me can’t do without.

According to HCI’s statistics, of the 1,373,000 new cases of cancer in the United States each year, 6,000 will come from Utah alone.

Carol’s is one of those cases. She will be 67 this week, and she has breast cancer.

She moved to Utah a year ago from Boston to be near her only grandson before she discovered a lump in a routine mammogram.

There is an unexpected tranquility in her words as she speaks of her multiple lumps and cancer diagnosis. She seems almost fearless about her situation. I can relate to her confidence because I know, like she does, that we are in good hands — the best hands.

I’m here to see the same doctor as Carol for a lump I found in my breast late last year.

I am having a lumpectomy and the most common question I get about my situation is, “Are you scared?”

I always answer, “No,” because I know there is no better place I could be than the HCI.

It is no secret that the HCI “knows” cancer. Owned by the state as part of the U Hospital system, the HCI has been fortunate enough thus far to have funding to specialize in research, patient care and cancer education.

One of only 20 hospitals recognized in the National Comprehensive Cancer Network — a group of the world’s leading cancer centers — the HCI is now seeking additional annual funding from the Utah Legislature.

Currently, HCI receives $3.5 million from a pot of tobacco tax and settlement funds for research.

The institute is now requesting that, from the same pot, the state give it a one-time appropriation of $10 million in addition to $5 million a year.

According to the HCI, additional funding, which pales in comparison to the $3 billion Texas is setting aside for cancer research over the next decade, would help to recruit top scientists, improve patient care, maintain outreach programs for the public and support the treatment and prevention of cancer.

The HCI is the only institution of its kind in the Intermountain West, and for the number of people who need the services it provides, the Legislature should give the institute the annual funding it seeks.

As I am called on for my appointment, Carol looks at me softly and says, “Good luck.”

By the time this column is published, I will have had my surgery — a surgery that I know will turn out just fine, because the HCI is the best at what it does.

I’m just hoping that in the future, for people like Carol, me and everyone else who needs its services, the HCI continues to be the best.