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Published on August 23, 2018

Glenn and Mary Dozark

Expanded Cancer Services Will Be “Huge” for Many

As a retired educator, Mary Dozark of Fort Pierre was always glad to see former students during her time at Avera St. Mary’s Hospital in Pierre, as she was getting treated for breast cancer.

“My husband, Glenn, and I were both teachers, and he was a wrestling coach, so we did often see students from Stanley County among the staff at the hospital,” she said. “We thought everyone on staff at Avera Cancer Institute was so nice, not only in Pierre.”

Once Mary had completed chemotherapy, she and Glenn became traveling companions, making the 315-mile roundtrip journey from their home just on the edge of Fort Pierre to Avera Cancer Institute in Mitchell, each day, for more than four weeks. It was at that location where she received radiation therapy to treat her cancer.

“Glenn was a coach, and during this whole thing, he became my coach, that was probably harder for him as I’m his wife. But he kept with me, every step of the way, and it meant so much,” Mary said. “We both felt so blessed by our care team. All of our doctors were so good to us, and they gave me more confidence as we went through this journey.”

Daily Travel Routine

As a lifelong central South Dakotan, Mary realizes how much of a difference the new Avera Cancer Institute at the Helmsley Center in Pierre will make. She knows the unsettling feeling that comes with new surroundings and doctors, and while her prognosis is good, the addition of cancer services in her part of the state will be “huge” for so many.

“Home is where your heart is, and I know that’s a cliché, but it made such a big difference for me, during my chemotherapy, to come home and sit in my chair and sleep in my bed,” she said.

She credits the entire Avera cancer team for their hard work and compassion. Her physicians included her oncologist in Pierre, Sreekanth Donepudi, MD, her surgeon, Eldon Becker, MD, along with her Mitchell-based radiation oncologist, Stephen Dick, MD, and all played important parts in her treatment.

Soon, the treatment that led her to travel those many miles will be available in Pierre. Mary knows it’ll be a game-changer for many people.

“We were blessed in so many ways, including the fact we didn’t have to travel to Mitchell until the weather improved. I know this will be helpful for a lot of people, because having this here will make it easier,” she said, referring to the radiation therapy that soon will be part of the health care landscape of South Dakota’s capital city. “The equipment and therapy will help, but having a good team behind it is really important as well.”

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