Highlighting the hematology/oncology unit at Gundersen

Unit treats cancer, blood disorders

Every day, doctors and nurses at Gundersen Health System’s Pediatric Hematology/Oncology unit are making a difference in the lives of children.

A diagnosis like cancer or any other blood disease can have a profound impact on a child’s life, but the goal at the pediatric hematology/oncology unit at Gundersen is to make everyone feel like family.

When you walk through the doors to the Gundersen pediatric hematology/oncology unit, you notice how quickly the place feels like family.

“The whole mentality of our staff is make patients feel at home,” said Dr. Toni Peters.

One of those nurses making patients feel like home is Kathy Mix.

“She is one of the most caring individuals you will ever meet,” Peters said.

Mix has been greeting patients at her desk for nearly two decades.

“She’s here before I get here in the morning, and leaves after I leave,” Peters said. “She’s the rock and cornerstone of our clinic.”

“It’s a way to help a family get through a really scary time in their life,” Mix said.

Whether scheduling a patient’s appointment or offering emotional support to a child after a day of chemotherapy, Mix is always there.

“Even in the worst circumstances, you have created that relationship, and it’s the recognition of, somehow, you’ve made a difference. Somehow the families are still here to see you. Somehow you have helped a family create some special memories that they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise,” Mix said.

For other staff, seeing children leave the clinic healthy is what makes this all worth it.

“We cure 80 to 85 percent of childhood cancer at this point at this point in time, so the number of high points completely outweighs the low points,” Peters said.

So for the kids battling cancer, it’s not the place, but the people that make it feel like home.

“You really do care. Think that’s a really big part of it,” Mix said.

Bob Ettinger, whom many know simply as ‘Dr. Bob,’ was also a big part of the hematology/oncology unit at Gundersen.

However, he retired two years ago.

The unit treats between 12 and 35 patients at any given time.