Bill and Jean Adler have been visiting 1300 N. Fourth St. since their grown son was swinging a T-ball bat there as the 1990s dawned, little knowing something was coming to that site to knock cancer out of the ballpark.
“One thing that inspired me is, back in the chemo room, they have big windows that looked out on the woods. I loved that when I was sitting back there,” the wife said, after recalling that she’d been “terrified” when she stepped into Texas Oncology-Longview Cancer Center with breast cancer.
Jean Adler was diagnosed with the killer in 1994, one year after the Fourth Street center opened.
She and her husband, who would step through the automatic doors as a prostate cancer patient 15 years after his wife was a patient, were among some 200 people celebrating the center’s silver anniversary Thursday.
A very odd site was just down the hall from the couple — a deserted waiting room where at any given moment of the business day 30 or more patients chat or sit silently for chemotherapy.
“This was a vacant lot here,” the husband said, sitting inside the center shortly before joining the party going on beneath a huge canopy in the parking lot where four food trucks made it a picnic for the doctors, former patients and a table full of local judges.
Michael Seiden, president of national parent U.S. Oncology, told the crowd it’s no coincidence the Texas facility is thriving 25 years after arriving in Longview.
“It’s about leadership,” Seiden said. “I am confident that you will still be here 25 years from now.”
The Longview Cancer Center grew from Texas Oncology Professional Association in Dallas, where Dr. Lewis Duncan and others took note of how many East Texans were among their patients.
“And they were just wearing out the tires driving I-20, coming back and forth,” Duncan said. “So we said, ‘We ought to open a center out there.’ The whole concept was to have the care here and not have to travel long distances.”
Duncan said the move east was rewarded by the discovery of a quality staff either already here or ready to join the team.
“The nurses, great nurses and great volunteers, are really what make this place home,” he said, noting there typically are four volunteers at hand each day.
Before joining the party outside, the Adlers enjoyed a reunion with oncology nurse Debbie Windsor, who had cared for both and greeted them with hugs Thursday.
“It’s good to see you,” Jean Adler told her caregiver, who with radiation oncologist Dr. Bill Taylor and medical oncologist Dr. Lewis Duncan batted down the disease in both Adlers — and Windsor.
“Good patients,” Windsor described the couple. “They were both very good, both of them.”
“But she really was a special nurse, too,” Jean Adler added.
About the time Jean Adler was seeing her health return, Nurse Windsor became a breast cancer patient on Fourth Street. Having joined the staff when the center opened, Windsor continued to care for patients throughout her own treatment.
“I felt like my patients needed me,” she said. “I feel like that is part of my job, to make sure you have the best nurse possible. ... I always wanted to be a nurse. I didn’t really want to work with cancer patients, and I fell in love. So, it’s 25 years later, and I’m still in oncology.”
She also remembered when the center opened, after starting out in a temporary building also on Fourth Street.
“We thought this was the hugest building,” Windsor said. “We would never outgrow it. And it didn’t take long that we outgrew this building and moved into the second building.”
After Windsor left the room, Jean Adler said her nurse began the local breast cancer support group. Survivors Supporting Survivors meets at 5:30 p.m. the first Monday of each month in the Pine Tree Church of Christ Hub youth building.
Bill Adler, who retired four years ago after selling Adler 1 Tire Center in Longview, said he’s looking forward to many years ahead, thanks to Texas Oncology-Longview Cancer Center.
“I’m just in for the ride, having a good time and enjoying it,” the cancer survivor said.