Fighting cancer at home |

Fighting cancer at home

Photo by Ryan Salm/Sierra SunTahoe City resident Betsy Watson sits in the new Tahoe Forest Oncology Center.

Betsy Watson, a Tahoe City lung cancer survivor, spent four hours in her car five days a week for eight weeks in order to get the chemotherapy treatment in Sacramento that would help save her life.

The commute was exhausting, Watson said, and she would have loved an option closer to home where she could find not only treatment but a network of patient support.

That option is now available in Truckee.

Tahoe Forest Hospital has unveiled its new state-of-the-art oncology center led by Dr. Laurence Heifetz. For 25 years Heifetz served as an oncologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the dominant oncology group in Los Angeles, and 13 years as an associate clinical professor of medicine at UCLA.

Heifetz moved to Truckee three years ago to develop the hospital’s cancer program.

“The major service is the ability to diagnose a patient and treat them fully right here, without the need to go to Reno or Sacramento,” Heifetz said.

The Tahoe Forest oncology program can provide patients with four oncology nurses, chemotherapy, diagnostic imaging services, psycho-social support, nutritionists, pain management services and more.

“It brings a three-week work up (diagnosis process) down to five days,” said Heifetz, who has already seen nearly 30 patients since the program’s inception six weeks ago.

Heifetz’s deep connection to the oncology community also means quicker access to referrals and second opinions from medical leaders at UC Davis, UC San Francisco and Stanford medical centers.

The current missing piece is radiation therapy. At a cost of $2 million for the necessary equipment, it’s just not feasible right now, according to hospital marketing director Paige Nebeker.

Watson, meanwhile, said what the hospital is offering is an important addition for the entire region.

“It’s not just the medicine, it’s the conversations,” she said. “If you’re being treated locally, you touch base with other patients. You create bonds and can continue giving one another support in the community.”

Support Local Journalism


Support Local Journalism

Readers around Lake Tahoe, Truckee, and beyond make the Sierra Sun's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.

For tax deductible donations, click here.

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User