The Phelps County community celebrated the advancement of cancer care in south central Missouri through a structured partnership between Phelps County Regional Medical Center's Delbert Day Cancer Institute and Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis.

Rolla’s Delbert Day Cancer Institute is the second organization to join the Siteman Cancer Network, and together the institutions will provide access to cancer prevention and control strategies.

Patients will also have access to highly specialized treatments and technologies, including clinical trials at Siteman Cancer Center, said Timothy J. Eberlein, MD, director of Siteman Cancer Center and the Bixby Professor of Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine.

The partnership came as great news for Lani Yearicks, sergeant first class stationed at Fort Leonard Wood. Her journey began in 2016 when she first learned she had cancer following her first mammogram after her 40th birthday.

After two mammograms and a biopsy at the hospital on post, she was referred to Siteman where she was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer. Siteman found cancer in all four quadrants of her left breast and two of seven lymph nodes.

She credited her meaningful relationship with the Delbert Day Cancer Institute and Siteman Cancer Center as instrumental for her when she learned of the adverse news.

“I think it is a great thing that Siteman and Delbert Day Cancer Institute are going to have a partnership because I had great care out in St. Louis, but being from Fort Leonard Wood and having radiation especially as a daily thing, it just wasn’t feasible for me to drive to St. Louis and either stay there and wait for the treatments or drive back and forth each day,” stated Yearicks.

Having the ability to go to Delbert Day Cancer Institute allowed her to work and go home to her two sons and husband after treatment. Without her family she couldn’t have made it through the journey of having cancer, she said.

“My husband drove me to the majority of my appointments and held my hand when I had my head shaved. My command team and my unit were also very helpful and super supportive,” said Yearicks.

She received chemotherapy in March of 2017, which Yearicks tolerated well, but losing her hair “was really tough.”

“Because of the extent of cancer especially in my lymph nodes it was strongly suggested that I undergo radiation treatments because I needed daily radiation doses for 28 days, and I was given the option to go to the Delbert Day Cancer Institute here in Rolla where I saw Dr. Christopher Spencer,” said Yearicks. “I finished my radiation September of 2017, and everything went well.”

She has now completed all of her treatments and only has follow up visits with her oncologist.

The prevention of cancer is medical director and radiation oncologist for the Delbert Day Cancer Institute, Christopher Spencer’s, mission. He explains a multitude of exciting things will come from the partnership since it’s going to help take the resources that Siteman Cancer Center has established -- being some of the best resources in the world--and bringing them to the community level.

Spencer said, “This is really what I am most passionate about. The screening for prevention and detection of cancer is a big piece of the future of improving outcomes to all the patients diagnosed with cancer, and the resources to do this are very complicated.

"This partnership is going to allow us to not reinvent the playbook and take the best playbook out there and figure out exactly how to tailor to our community so my kids, our kids, and their kids will have lower incidents of cancer, and will be able to detect those cancers better and treat them earlier on in their diagnosis.”