Innovative Treatment Plan Keeps Home Care Leader on the Go
This story originally appeared in our October 2019 Annual Report. We are saddened to update that Donna DeBlois passed away after her courageous battle with cancer on October 1, 2021. We are grateful for her leadership and her longtime dedication to health care and MaineHealth.
Donna DeBlois understands the importance of having a dedicated team of health care professionals by your side when facing a medical challenge. As a practicing nurse and home care/hospice leader for more than 30 years, and president of MaineHealth Care at Home since 2013, DeBlois leads an organization of 420 employees providing home health, palliative and hospice services to thousands of clients across seven Maine counties and 5,700 square miles. She is a champion for excellence and innovation in patient care, logging more than 9,000 miles a year as a health system leader and advocate for our most vulnerable populations.
So when DeBlois was diagnosed in 2018 with upper gastrointestinal cancer — a treatable though incurable cancer — she wasn’t going to let it slow her down. She was determined to stay active and engaged in her life and her work. DeBlois turned to medical oncologist Peter Rubin, MD, of MaineHealth Cancer Care to develop an innovative, coordinated treatment plan to fight the disease.
“A large part of the doctor-patient relationship is being honest, looking at patients as individuals and developing an understanding of what is most important to them,” said Rubin. He worked with DeBlois on a targeted therapy that differs from traditional chemotherapy yet still uses drugs to treat the cancer. It focuses on the cancer’s specific genes, proteins or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival. Targeted drug therapies that block molecular pathways involved in the development and progression of gastrointestinal cancers have recently gained considerable attention for maintaining better outcomes.
“My treatment allows me to travel with the use of a port and a small bag for the drug,” said DeBlois. Her electronic health record also travels with her, so providers throughout the MaineHealth network can access her care plan. DeBlois may travel to a meeting in Saco at the beginning of the week, receive treatment in Biddeford, and then participate in a meeting in Augusta later in the week, continuing treatment at the Harold Alfond Cancer Care Center.
“I am feeling great and my energy has returned to normal,” she added.
DeBlois credits Dr. Rubin for supporting her plan to fight cancer, and the MaineHealth Cancer Care Network for providing the care coordination and flexibility that put her needs at the center — so she can continue to do the same for MaineHealth Care at Home and the patients and families they serve.
MaineHealth has launched a new medical oncology practice providing state-of-the-art cancer care close to home. MaineHealth Cancer Care brings together services of MMP Medical Oncology and SMHC Cancer Care and Blood Disorders with five new providers specializing in medical oncology, head and neck cancer, hemostasis, thrombosis, malignant hematology, gastrointestinal cancer, geriatric cancer, and medical research.
As part of the MaineHealth Cancer Care Network, the practice’s medical oncologists play an important role in managing therapies and coordinating care among other specialists immersed in the evolving landscape of prevention, treatment and clinical trials.
This new medical oncology practice reflects MaineHealth’s continued commitment to provide our patients and their families with truly integrated cancer care close to home.
For more info, visit mainehealth.org/cancer.