By Lisa Byers
VERNON TOWNSHIP — One year, one hundred days.
That’s how long Meadville resident Erin Schroder-Fucci has been cancer free. And she owes a lot of the thanks to the hardworking individuals like Meadville Medical Center Foundation board member James Duratz, who made the newly-named Yolanda G. Barco Oncology Institute a reality.
“This is unbelievable,” said Schroder-Fucci, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in December 2007. “I had my surgery at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, which is one of the top cancer places in the country. But I chose to come here to Meadville for my chemotherapy.
“I could have had it in Boston; I have family in Boston. But I came here because of (the Yolanda G. Barco Oncology Institute).”
Approximately 50 people, including Schroder-Fucci, were at the Yolanda G. Barco Oncology Institute, formerly known as Meadville Medical Center’s Oncology Wellness Institute, Sunday for the official renaming and to pay tribute to Duratz, who has devoted time, energy and financial resources to many projects in the Meadville area for several years now. None of Duratz’s undertakings, however, are quite as important as the cancer center, which was renamed to honor his late sister-in-law.
“This is No. 1,” Duratz said. “You do things in your lifetime that you know is a good cause, but this one just jumps out at you. There are so many people that it helps. And I think that’s important. There seems to be an awful lot of patients in this area.”
Duratz cared for his sister-in-law during her battle with cancer and remembers the long drives out of town for her treatments.
“This is very, very important,” Duratz said of the $12 million institute, which opened its doors in May 2008. “She’s my sister-in-law and we had a very close relationship. I went to her treatments with her in Pittsburgh and I was so happy we finally got this done. When we first started talking about it, it was, ‘Wouldn’t it have been nice if we had it before?’ ”
For Schroder-Fucci, it came just in time.
“You walk in this place and there’s life, there’s love and there’s hope here,” she said. “You don’t see sad people. ... Chemo is not fun, but this place made it almost fun. I can’t express enough how wonderful this building is.
“I don’t want my cancer to come back. And all cancer patients worry about that. But I’m not so scared if it does because I have this place. It takes some of the fright away.”
Lisa Byers can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
By Lisa Byers