Moncrief Cancer Institute is proud to be a part of the Fort Worth AYA Coalition, offering support services free of charge to those ages 18-40 who have had a cancer diagnosis anytime in their lifetime. We offer free monthly cooking classes, yoga, support groups and more. Check out WFAA's story, featuring Dr. Brittany Hall and dietitian Milette Siler, as they follow one of our patients during her journey.
Fort Worth hospital design aimed at younger cancer patients
The adolescent and young adult, or AYA, oncology unit at Baylor All Saints Hospital in Fort Worth was made with cancer patients aged 15 to 39 in mind.
A colorectal cancer diagnosis at just 34 brought Jennifer Torres of Fort Worth to a screeching halt.
“Literally it's like everything stopped. You're just thinking about I don't want to die, I don't want to die, I don't want to die,” she said.
The mother of three had to be hospitalized. She was preparing for the stay to be uncomfortable physically and emotionally — or so she thought.
“My nurse came in, and he's like ‘I have a better room for you,’” Torres recalled. “I'm like, ‘But this is nice, I'm okay, I'm good.'
"'No no no, you're going to like it here on the other side.’”
The “other side” was the adolescent and young adult, or AYA, oncology unit at Baylor All Saints Hospital in Fort Worth.
Dr. Karen Albritton, the unit’s medical director, showed us around.
“This is one of our patient rooms,” she said, as we entered a large, bright, tech-savvy room. “And you’ll notice some features that are unique.”
This unit is the only one like it in the country—and few even know it exists.
It has guest beds that turn into desks, retractable shelves and abundant USB ports, to name a few features. And if you’re thinking it looks more like a boutique hotel or a college dorm than a hospital unit, Albritton says that’s the goal.
She says AYA patients, aged 15 to 39, often feel isolated during their treatment because it’s rarer for people their age to have cancer. This space aims to remove that isolation and bring normalcy into an abnormal situation.
“We’ve got pool, we’ve got a record player,” Albritton said. “Everyone has a smart TV, they can load up their Netflix.”
From a foosball table to sprawling couches in the common areas, the set-up encourages community. There are even ‘uncrustable’ sandwiches in the fridge.
“They need to bump into people their own age they can share that experience with,” the doctor said.
That concept is carried on through the other services offered by the Fort Worth AYA Oncology Coalition off-site, like yoga, exercise, therapy and cooking.
We visited Moncrief Cancer Institute one day when the AYA patients were learning healthy cooking and eating. They’re also connecting with others who know their struggles.
“Emotional health we know impacts the course of medical conditions, not only cancer but all sorts of medical conditions,” said Brittany Hall, lead AYA psychologist at Moncrief.
“Cancer care’s not just the chemo that you get. It’s how you're supported through that process,” Albritton said.
That’s something Jennifer Torres now knows well.
“It was just uplifting, positive vibe, positive feeling, the staff was great,” Torres said of her stay.
She took that positivity with her during surgery, treatment, and now—remission.
She is cancer free—and grateful to be moving full speed ahead with life once again.