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Published on December 29, 2017

Karin and Jory Ward family

Focus on Holistic Care and Faith Helps Sioux City Woman Face Cancer

The overhead speaker system in Avera’s Prairie Center regularly invites people in the building to join in prayer. When that invitation is heard, the busy work of an entire team of cancer-fighting professionals pauses.

Employees, patients and families stop to reflect and join in the prayer or to consider its meaning. Karin Ward, a Sioux City, Iowa, breast cancer patient and registered nurse, noticed the overarching appreciation of the spiritual healing needed last summer, while she was receiving treatment.

“It really made a big difference to me,” said Ward, who works as a registered nurse. “The nurses and other staff took time to stop and join the prayer, and encouraged me to join them as well. The chaplain who visited with me and my husband, Jory, was awesome, too. She prayed with us in a way that felt tailored – it wasn’t some cookie-cutter approach.”

Avera Cancer Institute prides itself in holistic care, where the medical, physical, mental and spiritual needs of each patient are met. They are met as individuals and for Ward – it made an impact.

“I felt they met my husband and I where we were – I was spiritual when I went in – and it felt good to be in a facility with that complete approach to my situation,” she said. “It wasn’t all labs and drugs – those prayers, along with their integrative medicine clinic and its acupuncture – really anticipated the every need I had, from the beginning.”

Starting The Process

Ward began her treatment in the Sioux City area, and a new cancer outreach clinical program, was her first interaction with Avera cancer physicians.

“When you get the news that you have breast cancer, it’s a shock and creates chaos, especially in your heart and mind,” she said. “But I really appreciated the careful approach my Avera physicians provided. They spelled things out with both words and images. They explained side effects and how their clinic (Avera Medical Group Integrative Medicine) could help with them. Getting all these things, all in one place – really helped me get my feet back on the ground.”

Ward said Rev. Laurel Buwalda, an Avera Cancer Institute chaplain, was an active and valuable part of the care she received, and felt she was among many individuals who elevated her experience in the face of fear and some anger as well.

“I did go through some anger with God – and she was readily willing to help me, and to listen. (Avera Breast Center Clinic Manager) Janna Binder was great, too. She was always around and she’s an amazing listener,” Ward said. “I wish all cancer care facilities would train their teams to give care like I received with Avera.

Somedays we may be crabby or withdrawn, but everyone at the Prairie Center was willing to meet me where I was at – they provided the framework and a plan that made the process more approachable.”

Making Services More Available

Julie Reiland, MD, FACS, is a breast surgeon, and performed Ward’s surgery in October. Reiland met her during outreach efforts in locations outside of Sioux Falls can help more patients, and said those outreach clinics – along with Avera’s culture of compassion – are vital.

“When patients like Karin see me in an outreach setting, they are not just getting my perspective on their cancer – they are learning about all their options, because of our multi-disciplinary methods,” said Reiland. “The patient benefits from the expertise of a diverse team, because they are not getting just my insight. Their cases are reviewed by the brains of 10 other physicians who look at their situation and consider every possible approach.”

While the compassionate culture helped, Reiland said it is among many facets that are offered to all patients.

“I think she really experienced the culture we foster. It’s a huge part of care – we really do have the patient at the center of all we do, and I think, from her feedback, our approach was meaningful to her,” Reiland added.

Ward agreed – and felt the robust array of help made a world of difference.

“The plan was what I needed to get myself focused on the process, and Dr. Reiland was very thorough, and she instructed me about the fact that women who have mastectomies can go directly to plastic surgery, all within the same surgery,” said Ward. “I wasn’t aware I could do that, and I suspect many women don't understand that is an option. She explained it’s actually the preferred approach.”

Ward said her experiences in Sioux Falls showed her a health system that was comfortable receiving feedback and that was striving to improve, every day.

“In all the conversations I had with my physicians, and with Janna, I could tell their expectations were really high, that everyone on the team wanted more, wanted to improve,” she said. “You don’t find that a lot, and that’s what I have raved about to others with Avera. The kindness, the open consideration, the desire to improve – I never had to wait, and the spiritual compassion was really important to me.”

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