Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope and Healing + The Dempsey Challenge!

Dempsey.  Patrick Dempsey.  Oh yeah, I know what you are thinking. Patrick Dempsey as in Dr. McDreamy from Grey's Anatomy??? Yup. Okay, okay, okay... he is a total hottie, but he also happens to also be a great humanitarian, and a wonderful son.

Patrick Dempsey's mother is an ovarian cancer survivor. As you know, I have a special love in my heart for ovarian cancer survivors...but I digress. During the time of Mrs. Dempsey's initial treatment, her family identified that support and resources were either lacking or unaffordable for many cancer survivors in central Maine.

As a way of giving back to the community where he grew up, Patrick Dempsey provided the initial funding to start The Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope and Healing at Central Maine Medical Center. He continues to raise funds for the center every year through The Dempsey Challenge (a walk and biking fundraiser that takes place every October).

Mary Dempsey
But there is more to the story. The Dempsey Center is apparently a family affair. The "heart" of the center is Mary Dempsey. She is a co-founder and co-creator of the center. Her title is assistant director and she is a very creative "hands on" head of the impressive volunteer program there.

There is also word on the street that Patrick and Mary's inspiration for all of this (their mom) is also an active member of The Dempsey Center.

Here is the Dempsey Center mission statement:

"The mission of The Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing is to improve the quality of life for individuals, families, and communities impacted by cancer through support, education, integrative medicine, outreach and prevention. We strive to embrace the whole person using a collaborative and holistic approach." They succeed at this and so much more.

I had heard of the center and had been receiving their emails monthly, which told of what classes and services were available (all free of charge) for the cancer survivors/caregivers of Maine. Their work is very similar to what we do at the survivorship center at my hospital in Boston. Since I summer in Maine and have a deep love for Maine, I knew that I needed to check out the Dempsey Center in person.

My sister in law Susi (a cancer survivor) and I stopped in one day last year. When we walked in the front door of The Dempsey Center, we were graciously greeted with warmth and a hug from the very amazing and fabulous Michelle Small. Michelle is a Cancer Resource Specialist. This is my dream job and I was immediately jealous and wanted to hate her. No such luck. She is a total doll and extremely committed to the center and her patients.

She gave us a tour of the center and it was then and there that we were introduced to the world's greatest invention....THE PORT PROTECTOR!!!! (see my blog entry of last year:

Michelle let us take one of them with us and we love her for that!!! Since then my sister in law Susi has made stacks of these as well as soft comfy hats. She makes them in FL and then sends them to my patients in Boston and to The Dempsey Center for their patients. We blatantly ripped off this great idea, and we thank and give full credit to The Dempsey Center for it!!!!

The Fabulous Michelle Small

But enough about THE AMAZING PORT PROTECTOR.....let's get back to The Dempsey Center and what it does...

The center provides free services to cancer survivors whether they have been treated at CMMC or not. Free massage, reiki, nutrition classes, exercise and wellness classes, support groups, one on one counseling, and a whole lot more are provided here. There is a free lending resource library with internet use for cancer patients and their families. Oncology social workers, financial counselors, resource specialists all are available to assist the survivor and their family members. SO many great services for anyone touched by cancer in Maine. Please see their website for a full description of their services.

This year we returned to the Dempsey Center. My sister in law had signed up as a volunteer to make hats, neck pillows, port protectors for the survivors. We were again greeted by Michelle, and this time by a human fireball of positive energy, Mary Dempsey. Hugs again greeted us along with a flurry of instructions for making these items for the patients. We participated in a volunteer sewing and neck pillow stuffing workshop.

The delightful leader of our sewing volunteer group that day was Mary Tucker a talented seamstress (Mainly Sewing of Lewiston) who gives of her time and considerable talents. She even enlisted her former marine husband Jerry to assist with cutting out fabric. A great team!!!

Bottom line: this is an awesome cancer survivorship center with a plethora of committed employees and volunteers.

If you are a cancer survivor (or a family member) in central Maine, do yourself a favor and check out the most excellent Dempsey Center.

If you are looking to donate to a worthwhile cause, please consider a donation to The Dempsey Challenge (or sponsor a rider or a walker).

Right now the Dempsey Center is a small haven located on the grounds of Central Maine Medical Center. In September 2012, they are moving to a larger and more beautiful place where all of the healing can take place.

My sister in law and brother post Dempsey Challenge 11 mile bike ride
My Dempsey Challenge bike ride (11 miles!!) number and those who I rode in honor of

It is true....the whole Dempsey family gets involved!


  1. The Dempsey Center is a vital part of the lives of cancer patients and their families.It wasn't in existence 6 years ago when I went thru rectal cancer but I have been a member of the family for 3 years.All of the faculty of the Dempsey Center are amazing people.When you walk thru the door of the center it feels like you have come home.I am honored to know these truly amazing,caring and genuine people who run the center.Cancer brought them into my life and as a 6 year survivor caner has gone away but they are still here.Thank you all for all you do

  2. Cynthia,
    It is so great to hear of your experience with The Dempsey Center. Thank you so much for sharing it. I am so impressed with the great work that they do there and I know that they touch many lives each and everyday.
    Thank you so much for reading my blog and responding!!
    So glad to hear that you are healthy and cancer free now.....6 years!!!! You ROCK!!!!