WHEN Elizabeth Hawkins was called back for a second test after her routine mammogram, she was understandably feeling a fair bit of trepidation.
That trepidation turned to outright fear when the second test results came back with a breast cancer diagnosis.
There was a strong history of heart disease in her family, but she had never experienced cancer first-hand and had no idea what to expect.
Now, with only seven treatments left to go from a total of 25, she can honestly say the worst part of the whole process for her was the two week wait before she began her treatment at St Andrew's Hospital Cancer Care Centre.
Mrs Hawkins said it was the moment she walked through the doors and was greeted by a cheery receptionist and taken to meet her equally upbeat caregivers that she began to calm herself down and think more positively.
As a Stanthorpe resident she was particularly pleased not to have to travel an extra hour in each direction for her treatments, one of the main benefits of having a facility in a regional centre that functions as a gateway to towns across the south and west of the state.
C[pounds sterling]From the time I walked into St Andrew's the whole staff Co nurses, doctors, secretaries and tea ladies Co have been fabulous,C[yen] she said.
C[pounds sterling]They have made a very stressful thing so much easier and I realised that even though I was dreading treatment it was not that bad at all.C[yen]
St Andrew's Cancer Care Centre chief executive officer Mark Middleton said Mrs Hawkins simply noticed the kind of effort put in to recruiting staff members with ticks in more boxes than just the university degree, experience and job skills.
C[pounds sterling]We have a very young and vibrant team here and that has worked in our favour because they're very happy and love their jobs,C[yen] he said.
He said recruiting younger people in regional areas has proven a success in terms of staff retention and job satisfaction, which ultimately leads to a better care experience for the patient.
And that's just one small part of running Australia's most impressive regional cancer care centre.
St Andrew's Cancer Care Centre opened in 2007 and about 3000 patients have been treated there since.
Every year about 200 women like Mrs Hawkins are treated there for breast cancer and go on to live healthy, proactive lives in their community.
And that's just the obvious stuff.
Mr Middleton said one important element of the centre is its research facility, which is helping with some important breakthroughs.
One example is fine tuning processes like reducing the amount of treatments for older women with breast cancer, after discovering additional treatments produced the same results. …