hustondesign's blog

Survivors and Thrivers

Dr Michelle Mackay Oncologist Madison Wisconsin

In my practice treating those with cancer, I encourage my patients to surround themselves with good things. The love of family and friends, the tenderness of caregivers, the encouragement of healthcare providers. A positive and hopeful environment is one of the keys to good treatment. A cancer diagnosis changes your life. Finding joy in the simple things that happen every day is something we encourage at Turville Bay. And it’s the reason we celebrate our journey with cancer survivors and thrivers the first Sunday of June every year.

It all began 8 years ago on the shores of Lake Monona at Turville Bay’s Radiation Oncology center. We welcomed everyone that has been touched by cancer- those in treatment, those that are cancer free, and those that are still living with cancer as we search for a cure. We welcomed families of cancer patients, caregivers and healthcare providers from every hospital and clinic in south central Wisconsin. Under huge canopies, we visited each other, ate gallons of ice cream, danced to live music and laughed.

It’s become a tradition. The first Sunday of June the shore of Lake Monona is filled with joy. It’s the gift of a special afternoon spent with others that have shared the experience of a cancer diagnosis. It feels wonderful. The Cancer Survivors & Thrivers Ice Cream Social is one of my favorite events of the year.

Tips From the Staff: Holiday Mindfulness

The treatment of cancer goes on every day of the year. Some patients find themselves in treatment during the holidays, at a time many patients and caregivers are already overwhelmed. The staff of Turville Bay Radiation Oncology Center offer this advice for patients and caregivers during this time of year.

Take Care of You

Self-care is a priority, and never more so than during illness. Eating healthy food is the first step. “An important second step is exercise, it reduces stress and boosts your mood,” says Dr. James Richardson. Getting outdoors and breathing fresh air is helpful. Meditation and yoga practice can reduce stress instantly.

It’s Ok to Say No

“Recognizing the signs of “too much” helps ward off the fatigue the holidays can bring,” says Dr. June Kim, Radiation Oncologist at Turville Bay. Knowing yourself and your limits is important when you are fighting an illness like cancer.

Live in Gratitude

Cancer can turn our thoughts inward. “But, living a life of gratitude can help you emotionally. Look for the good each day,” says Barb Thiermann, Cancer Center Administrator of Turville Bay, and a cancer survivor herself. Barb found that staying focused on the positives and living fully each day lifted her spirits. “Make it your mission to accept and relish those moments of joy.”

Support Is Here

Talking things over with the staff at Turville Bay can help. “Because we see our patients every day we become part of each other’s world,” says Radiation Oncology Manager Kim Bangert.  “We also encourage visits to Gilda’s Club. Patients often tell us how wonderful it is to listen and also share with others. A visit to Gilda’s is a gift you give yourself.”

The Gift of Time

Shopping can be exhausting. And to many of the patients we serve, the best gifts they give and receive are gifts of time.  One patient began cooking meals together with friends. Another joined a neighbor for tea. A final thought from Barb, “Time with those you care about has the most meaning and involves little or no shopping, and the memories are priceless.”

Pure Patient Care? It’s Turville Bay’s Mission

Kim Bangert - Radiation Oncology Manager

Healthcare at Turville Bay has changed over the years, technology is continually updated, we learn new techniques, and celebrate every new discovery. One thing doesn't change though, it's our commitment to pure patient care. Patient centered care is our mission. A patient is diagnosed with cancer or another serious illness and is referred to Turville Bay for radiation oncology treatment. Another patient will have stereotactic radiosurgery to treat an abnormality without invasive surgery. And another patient may be referred for palliative care to relieve symptoms or reduce pain. The scenarios may be different, but the pure patient care philosophy remains solid. At what can be the most difficult time of their life, our support begins as patients walk through our doors.

Patients are referred for a physical problem, but their emotional discomfort can be as disconcerting to them. From the warm welcome at our entrance, to time spent with our doctors, nurses and therapists, we build relationships, get to know each patient, their family, and their caregivers. Being a part of the patient's journey is both amazing and humbling.

We assess each patient's unique needs for radiation therapy, stereotactic radiosurgery, and palliative care. Dr. Michelle Mackay, our medical director, Dr. June Kim, or Dr. James Richardson, oversee the highly specialized treatment planning, along with their teams of healthcare providers. Each treatment plan is completely individualized to the patient. When treatment begins, the patient's team continues to build this special relationship, being mindful of the emotional ups and downs of the patient and their caregivers. When extra help is needed referrals are available to fill the need. Gauging progress along with possible side effects, we're always there, always available, and patients find it comforting.

With many patients, this cocoon of care makes the end of treatment a bit scary. No longer seeing us each day can feel a bit frightening. Preparing patients for life after treatment is part of our care. They look forward to ringing the ship's bell in our lakeshore waiting room, signifying their final treatment and the beginning of life beyond our doors. With treatments completed, we encourage every patient to enjoy life knowing that we are always available if needed.

Understanding Cancer Risk Factors

“Turville Bay is south central Wisconsin’s radiation therapy treatment center. Our focus is giving patients our best through treatment and into recovery. But every single day patients, caregivers, and others ask us, as physicians, which substances and behaviors are known to cause cancers? The question is often posed by women, but applies to men in equal measure,” says Dr. James Richardson, Radiation Oncologist at Turville Bay.

“When acknowledging the power of an active life, a healthy diet, and avoiding tobacco, patients in treatment also feel the effects. More energy and improved circulation are just two of the benefits,” adds Dr. Michelle Mackay, Radiation Oncologist and Medical Director of Turville Bay.

The following graphics may help you make connections in your own life. The first graphic outlines 12 things you can do to limit your risk of developing cancer. Each of these actions has been proven to reduce cancers and improve your quality of life.

The second graphic may lead to a better understanding of your own health, from assessing your family history to recognizing behaviors that combine factors to increase your risk of developing cancer.

“Our goal is to improve the health of each patient we see,” says Dr. June Kim, Radiation Oncologist, “and to help everyone live life to it’s fullest.”

Your Best Defense Against Cancer? Take control of your health to reduce your risk and advocate for yourself.

Stay away from tobacco
Get to and stay at a healthy weight
Get moving with regular physical activity
Eat healthy with plenty of fruits and vegetables
Limit alcohol, if you drink at all
Protect your skin with the daily use of sunscreen
Avoid tanning beds
Have your home tested for Radon
Know yourself, your family history, and your risks
Get regular check-ups and cancer screening tests
Perform self-exams regularly
Get vaccines for infection-related cancers


Understanding The Cancers That Affect Us As Women

Cancer risk factors

The First Steps: Radiation Therapy at Turville Bay

Dr. James Richardson

Turville Bay specializes in radiation therapy to treat many types of cancer, including breast, prostate and lung cancers, as well as other illnesses. Turville Bay’s treatment center is located on John Nolen Drive in Madison. When your physician refers you to Turville Bay you’ll receive pure patient care - focused care, from our team of healthcare experts, devoted to you. Turville Bay’s technology is state of the art. And, as you arrive for your treatment each day, we hope you’ll enjoy the soothing views of Lake Monona.

Have you or a loved one been referred to Turville Bay for treatment? “Once you are referred to Turville Bay, you will meet with one of our nurses and then with one of our radiation oncologists, like myself,” says Dr. James Richardson. “We will sit down, review your medical history as well as your medical records, and perform a physical exam. We will then discuss your treatment options. We will select the option that best suits your type of cancer and diagnosis.”

“The next step is treatment planning, which can take a few days or a few weeks depending upon the complexity of the treatment plan. It is important to note that every plan is designed specific to you and your diagnosis,” continues Dr. Richardson.  “Your treatment plan entails the help of one of our medical physicists and Dosimetrists to calculate the radiation dose and make sure that it’s safe to deliver. Treatment generally begins about a week after treatment planning process is complete.”

Why Physicians Recommend Palliative Care

Dr June Kim Radiation Oncologist

What is palliative care?

At Turville Bay, palliative care is given throughout a patient’s experience with cancer to improve their quality of life. “The goal is to relieve pain and discomfort thereby helping them maintain independence,” says Dr. June Kim, Radiation Oncologist.

Palliative care for cancer patients addresses psychological, social, and even spiritual problems along with pain. At Turville Bay, palliative care is not used to treat the cancer itself, it is used to treat the symptoms and side effects of the cancer and its treatment. Palliative care can begin at diagnosis and continue through cancer treatment and follow-up care. The earlier palliative care starts, the better the outcome.

“Palliative care requires continuous teamwork,” says Dr. Kim, “including a radiation oncologist, nurses, therapists, dosimetrist, physicist and at times, clergy, social workers, and rehab technicians.”

Does palliative care make a difference?

The benefits of palliative care on a patient’s quality of life have been shown in numerous studies. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), clinical trials found that patients who received palliative care along with treatment for advanced cancer reported having a better quality of life and mood than patients who did not receive early palliative care. Patients who received palliative care also scored higher on their ability to cope with their cancer.

Palliative care can also increase survival rates. A landmark study showed patients who had early palliative care in conjunction with cancer treatment had a longer median survival than those who had cancer care alone.1

Are palliative care and hospice the same?

Both palliative care and hospice care provide comfort. But palliative care can begin at diagnosis and be given at the same time as treatment. Hospice care is often given later in the patient’s journey. Hospice care doesn’t mean that treatment stops. It means the type of treatment and goals of care changes to things like managing pain and other symptoms while helping patients reach their goals in the time that’s left.”

Is palliative care recommended for all cancer patients? Any person with any type or stage of cancer can benefit from palliative care. If you or a loved one feel you could benefit from palliative care, ask your doctor for a referral.

Sources: 1. Early palliative care for patients with metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer at Massachusetts General Hospital (
2. National Cancer Institute (NCI)

In her Hands- Stereotactic Radiosurgery

Dr Mackay Stereotactic Radiosurgery

As a radiation oncologist and the Medical Director at Turville Bay, I am continually grateful for being part of such a high quality practice in the beautiful area of Madison, WI. One of my favorite aspects of my practice is that I have had an amazing opportunity to develop and grow the intracranial stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) program at Turville Bay over the past four years. Many centers throughout the US perform stereotactic radiosurgery, but it is our unique, individualized, non-invasive technique that I believe makes the Turville Bay way most exceptional. For many of our patients, this is a life changing experience.

Once I meet with a patient regarding SRS treatment and it is determined that it is most appropriate for them, the planning begins. I orchestrate our team that will prepare an individualized plan including a medical physicist, specialized radiation therapists and the neurosurgeon. We begin with the simulation, at which time a very specific stereotactic mask is created. This is one of the keys to success of our treatment because the technique we use to create this mask allows us to achieve millimeter accuracy and reproducibility. The therapists, physicists and I create the mask to allow for ultimate accuracy, and I will admit, we are one very skilled, picky group.

The simulation session takes around 1-2 hours, and after that time the patient is able to leave the department and relax while the SRS team begins the behind the scenes planning. The information from simulation is transferred to the planning station and this is where the art and math occur. I work together with the neurosurgeon to perfect the treatment location, and the medical physicist to perfect dose distribution and quality assurance.

The patient will return to our department the following morning, will be set up on the treatment table in their perfectly constructed mask, and will undergo the treatment that has been ideally designed for him or her. Our team works so fluently together that it is like a ballet, with smooth motions between well designed steps to ensure that the treatment is performed flawlessly. The patient does not feel discomfort.

After the SRS treatment is complete, it is always wonderful to connect with the patient and their family to reflect on how treatment went and expected follow up. The diligence our team puts into each of these plans, and the wonderful technology we have to allow us to do so is something I see everyday, but it is in this moment that I can celebrate with them, because I know we have changed their lives for the better.

Madison’s 2017 Cancer Survivors & Thrivers Ice Cream Social

Cancer Survivors Event 2017

June 4th 2017 1:00PM-3:00PM

Each June Turville Bay hosts our Cancer Survivors and Thrivers Ice Cream Social. It’s a time to celebrate all of you who have been affected by cancer. Whether in remission, treatment or caring for a loved one, this event is an opportunity to relax, have fun and to connect with others in a similar situation. “It’s our shared experiences that make this event so special,” explains Dr. James Richardson, Radiation Oncologist.

Guests appreciate the joyful and inspiring atmosphere at the event. “I love attending the Ice Cream Social every year with my family!  It is a happy and upbeat event filled with people appreciating life and the gift of time with each other!” says Susan Smedley Gerber, lung cancer survivor and advocate. The serene setting, overlooking Lake Monona, also adds to the appeal. Everyone is welcome, there’s no cost to attend and parking is free.

At our 7th annual event, we will once again offer 10 flavors of delicious ice cream for free, thanks to our dedicated sponsor, Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream. We will also have musical entertainment provided by another incredible partner, Westside Andy.

In addition to ice cream and entertainment, the event provides an opportunity to interact with healthcare providers and agencies that offer cancer programs, such as Gilda’s Club Madison, to facilitate connections if you’re seeking additional support.

This event embodies the Pure Patient Care that we offer at Turville Bay. Sponsoring it is our way of showing you how much we care about those affected by cancer. We want you to know that you are not alone on this journey.

We hope to see you there – June 4th 1:00-3:00 at Turville Bay 1104 John Nolen Drive

Stereotactic Radiosurgery Advances In Madison WI

Dr Mackay and nurse Stereotactic Radiosurgery

Research in the field of neurology and of cancer has contributed to the uptick in the use of Stereotactic Radiosurgery or SRS. Conceived by a team of neurosurgeons and physicists in Sweden about 50 years ago, the use of SRS has become increasingly useful in treating abnormalities of the brain. Breakthroughs in the technology that delivers precisely targeted radiation in fewer high-dose treatments than traditional therapy is providing better outcomes for certain patients. Using non-surgical radiation therapy to treat functional abnormalities and small tumors of the brain is preferred to traditional surgery in some patients, according to Dr. Michelle Mackay, Medical Director of Turville Bay Radiation Oncology Center in Madison, WI. “Turville Bay’s stereotactic radiosurgery program is growing,” Mackay says. “Using advanced technology we’re able to perform delicate brain surgery without a knife, and change a life.”

One of the most important areas in the practice of stereotactic radiosurgery is treating tumors of the brain and neck. Radiosurgery is gaining acceptance in the field of Neurology for a number of reasons. When the target, a tumor that’s benign or malignant, is found in a difficult spot such as deep within the brain, or the patient is to fragile for traditional surgery, SRS might be used. With no anesthetic needed, no hospital stay, no recovery period, and no real downtime, stereotactic radiosurgery provides certain patients with better outcomes. “With our team of specialists, this technology, and an intensive treatment plan, we’ve found that SRS works incredibly well,” says Dr. Mackay.

The process of SRS is uniquely different than traditional surgery. Prior to treatment day, a team of specialists works together on the patient’s treatment plan. The team includes a neurosurgeon a medical physicist and dosimetrist, specially trained radiation therapists, oncology nurses, and a radiation oncologist. The plan is completely individualized to both patient and treatment target. Together they deliver the treatment according to that plan, often in a single visit; as the patient lies on the treatment couch of Turville Bay’s TrueBeam linear accelerator, a robotic arm controlled by a computer moves around him or her. It focuses radiation precisely where it is needed, avoiding the healthy brain tissue that surrounds the tumor. “The work is made possible by a team with years of expertise and this advanced piece of technology,” says Dr. Mackay, referring to Varian’s TrueBeam. “The precision is quite amazing.”

Madison’s Healthcare Technology Center Today

Dr. Michelle MacKay

In this new year, much is changing in healthcare: insurance, hospital partnerships, and even the way we look at healthcare. As a physician that cares for patients at what may be the toughest time of their life, it seems improvements in the healthcare technology we use have taken a backseat to other news. These technology improvements are essential in providing treatments that enable patients to live longer lives and thrive. In radiation oncology, we use radiation therapy in three rather unique ways. First, in the treatment of cancer. The exquisitely fine targeting of radiation beams delivers radiation therapy directly to the tumor(s) at brief intervals, every day for a few weeks. We kill cancer cells without harming healthy tissue, because improvements and breakthroughs in technology have made it possible.

Another important part of our practice is stereotactic radiosurgery, the delivery of radiation to areas that are difficult to reach by traditional surgery, or, in patients whose health makes them a poor candidate for traditional surgery. Many of the radiosurgeries we perform at Turville Bay are to reach intracranial (brain) tumors, both benign and malignant. Along with a neurosurgeon, a medical physicist, specially trained radiation therapists and a complex treatment plan, I perform stereotactic radiosurgery. To the patient, it can be life altering. Often in one single treatment using an incredible piece of technology we eliminate the tumor and the symptoms. There is no downtime, no traditional surgical recovery time, no hospital stay. The patient arrives at Turville Bay for radiosurgery, our team follows the patient’s highly individualized treatment plan, and the patient returns to daily life that day. We do recommend rest immediately following treatment, and usually a slight headache is the only side-affect. Life altering indeed.

Healthcare technology is somewhat costly. And the training needed to employ it is expensive and ongoing, as it is constantly being refined and updated. Yet today this technological healthcare delivery system allows us to conquer some of the most daunting illnesses we face. It’s something to celebrate, right here in Madison, Wisconsin.