‘Designed by patients like me’: A patient’s perspective on the Yawkey Center

As a Dana-Farber employee planning events for the opening of Dana-Farber’s Yawkey Center for Cancer Care, I knew the building was designed with guidance from patients and families.

But I had no idea how important this was until shortly after the building opened – and, newly diagnosed with acute t-cell lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoma, I walked through the doors as a patient myself.

At the worst time in my life, walking into the Yawkey Center as a cancer patient was so comforting. The building itself, filled with natural light and soothing features, doesn’t look like a hospital, thanks to decisions made with patient and family input.

Through long hours of infusion appointments, the heated seats and massage features in the chemotherapy chairs really come in handy. I can watch TV during treatment, or sit quietly and look out at the sweeping views through the floor-to-ceiling windows. Volunteers come around with a book cart if you want something to read, and a food cart with sandwiches, drinks, and snacks (which is really convenient when you’re there for a long day of treatment).

One of my favorite places — truly a little bit of paradise right inside the Yawkey Center — is the Stoneman Healing Garden. This sanctuary of flowers, plants, and rainforest sounds is so soothing. In the midst of stressful treatment, it’s a place to regroup, find peace, and for a moment, take in the beauty and tranquility.

All the details that patients themselves thought to implement in the design are too numerous to mention here. Going through cancer treatment is tough, but being in a beautiful, healing, and comfortable environment, designed by patients like me, makes the journey so much easier.

I still have 13 months of maintenance treatment to go, and there is no place I’d rather be having my treatment.

Rosemary Fischer is a former employee and current patient at Dana-Farber. Rosemary also appears in this video that highlights some of the ways patients and family members helped design the Yawkey Center.