Patient’s health journey influences design for new cancer pavilion

Deidra Moody (Shawn Hamer, Photo provided by Henry Ford Health System)

After Deidra Moody received cancer treatment at two different hospitals, she used her experiences to make a difference at Henry Ford’s new cancer pavilion, now open in Detroit.

What did she want most for other cancer patients in the new facility?

Comfort – starting with the chairs.

Before coming to Henry Ford, Moody went to another health system and was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer at age 45. She had just earned a bachelor’s degree, and her son was leaving Michigan to tour with the Harlem Globetrotters.

After Moody had a lumpectomy and while she was in the middle of chemotherapy, her physician said cancer may be hiding. She needed a mastectomy.

“I was devastated,” Moody said. “I was totally baffled. I asked for further testing, but the doctor was adamant about a mastectomy.”

Family members, friends and her pastor pressed her to get a second opinion.

“My uncle said, ‘Henry Ford is one of the top hospitals in Michigan. Why didn’t you go there?’”

The road to a second opinion

Moody called Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital and had a same-day connection with a surgeon, Dr. Jessica Bensenhaver, who leads Henry Ford’s breast cancer program.

“Even though it takes more effort, we always recommend second opinions for cancer patients,” Bensenhaver said. “It’s important to build confidence in a proposed treatment plan.”

Moody had already responded to the chemotherapy, so the invasive ductal carcinoma was re-staged to stage 2. She had a very large lumpectomy and cancer margins that Bensenhaver recalls were “too close for comfort. She needed a repeat operation to ensure all the cancer cells had been removed.”

“If she had another lumpectomy, the results could be deforming. So, we offered her oncoplastic surgery to reduce and reshape her large breasts and control the cancer,” Bensenhaver said.

Following surgery, Moody would receive radiation treatment, standard for breast conserving therapy.

“She had a fantastic cosmetic and cancer outcome,” Bensenhaver said.

Patient perspective: Building comfort, hope at the new cancer pavilion

“I’m very passionate about my journey – it’s had its ups and downs. But Henry Ford has been nothing but exceptional, and Dr. Bensenhaver is the sweetest lady ever,” Moody said.

“Deidra has been highly active in her care and has been a wonderful asset to other cancer patients who feel lost and scared,” Bensenhaver said.

Moody organized a support group, called Remnant, for women whose husbands left them because of cancer.

“I’ve always been a helper who wants to solve problems,” Moody said. “Now, I use my experiences from both hospitals to make the cancer journey easier for patients.”

Part of her mission included joining Henry Ford Cancer Institute’s Patient and Family Advisory Council, comprised of survivors, patients and patient family members. One of the biggest tasks in front of the council was to provide feedback to help Henry Ford design a comfortable, healing environment for patients in the new Detroit cancer pavilion.

Moody and her fellow council members reviewed everything inside the new pavilion from paint colors and furniture to room layout, food selection and other amenities. They also encouraged the designers to include spaces that allowed for meditation and relaxation for patients and visitors.

The council’s focus was clear: Infuse comfort into every space within the new 187,000-square-foot facility.

“If the room is fabulous, it changes your experience,” Moody said. “I got really excited about the chairs. They have high backs and arm rests, like living room furniture. The earth-tone paint makes the area warmer, and the ceiling-to-floor windows give a wide view of the city. There’s even a quiet space for people to be spiritual.”

Likewise, home cooking and comfort food at the pavilion was a top priority of the council.

“Look, nobody is going to enjoy being treated for cancer,” Moody said. “But this new building is different. When patients come in, they’ll think, ‘Someone took time and effort to make sure I’m comfortable.’”

As for Moody’s cancer journey, she is happy to have had clean scans for the past five years. She continues taking tamoxifen, exercises, eats well and plans to stay in remission.