Patient's Story Exemplifies Commitment to Cancer Services

Dr. Penny Cooper

Six months ago, Ronda Benavidez and her husband Frank were planning their retirement in sunny Florida.  They then received some news that altered their plans and put everything on hold.  Ronda had been diagnosed with lymphoma, a type of cancer that affects the immune system. 

The couple decided to move home to the San Luis Valley so that they would be closer to their family.

Excellent Timing

The timing of the situation worked out perfectly, as San Luis Valley Health had just hired its first full-time oncologist, Dr. Penny Cooper, who has brought over 25 years of experience to the organization. 

That experience has proven to be valuable, as Dr. Cooper gives credit to the network of colleagues she has developed over that time for offering advice and input with different cases. 

“Over the past 25 years, I have developed a network of colleagues that I have on speed dial and can seek their thoughts about a case,” said Dr. Cooper.  “So even though we have one oncologist here, we have a resource in the network that I have developed over my career.  This has helped greatly with cases like Ronda’s.”

“Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just recently approved a new drug that has helped with Ronda’s treatment,” Dr. Cooper went on to say. 

Praise for Staff

“Dr. Cooper has been nothing short of fantastic,” said Ronda.  “Within one day of meeting her, she had everything planned out of how to go about treating this disease.”

Ronda is San Luis Valley Health’s first in-patient chemotherapy patient and has received all of her services and treatment within the SLV Health organization. 

“It has been such a blessing to be able to stay close to home to receive these treatments,” explained Ronda, who lives in Manassa.  “Not traveling saves a lot of money and I am able to have my husband here at my appointments, as well as be close to my kids.”

Today, Ronda is in partial-remission and is feeling better each day, stating she currently feels “a million times better.”  The Benavidez’s credit the staff at San Luis Valley Health for the positive experience they have received.

“Dr. Cooper and her staff, along with Vee McAuliffe and her staff, have been so positive and energetic,” said Frank.  “We are grateful for everything they have done.”  McAuliffe is SLV Health’s Manager of Infusion Therapy.

Dr. Cooper also credits San Luis Valley Health for adding PET/CT scans to its suite of imaging services, noting that PET/CT scans are key for follow-up with lymphoma cases and another service that allows patients like Ronda to stay close to home.

SLV Health’s Commitment to Cancer Services

San Luis Valley Health is committed to providing cancer services for patients of the San Luis Valley and beyond so that they may receive their care close to home.  Over the past year, the organization has hired Dr. Cooper as SLV Health’s first, full-time oncologist as well as adding PET/CT scans to the imaging services that are offered.

On October 4th, San Luis Valley Health’s Foundation will host the 11th Annual Stephanie L. Miner 5K Walk/Run at Cole Park in Alamosa.  Registration for the event is ongoing and can be done by contacting Kelly Gurule at (719) 587-5707.  The funds raised from the event will go towards the continuing development of cancer services at San Luis Valley Health.

This article is part of the series “Introducing our Strategy Map: 2014-15” for San Luis Valley Health.  This article focuses on the third of four strategies, Providers of Choice for Healthcare, that San Luis Valley Health will focus on in the upcoming year.