Cancer Services Of Northeast Indiana opens regional office in Warsaw

Dianne May (C), president and CEO of Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana, cuts the ribbon Wednesday during the ribbon-cutting ceremony with the Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce. Pictured with her are Cancer Services staff and Chamber ambassadors. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
By David Slone

WARSAW — Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana has served Kosciusko and 10 other surrounding counties for the last 18 years.

Now, the nonprofit has its first resource center outside of Allen County at 2190 N. Pointe Drive, Warsaw. The regional office was celebrated Wednesday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house with the Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce.

Marsha Haffner, Cancer Services vice president for mission fulfillment, explained they started out in Allen County, but in 2006 they became Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana to cover 11 counties, but they were always out of Allen County.

“So this is our first office that we have actually opened in one of our other counties other than Allen County to provide services, just kind of closer to home, because Fort Wayne is about an hour’s drive,” she said.

They wanted to provide their services closer to the people they serve so they could participate more. Kosciusko was chosen because it was one of Cancer Services’ furthest-reaching counties and proximity was part of the goal, Haffner said.

“Because there is a cancer treatment center here, there’s folks that were being referred to us and we would deliver things here for people, but we were getting feedback from folks, ‘I wish you were closer, I wish you were closer,’” she said.

   Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana offers wigs like these and other head coverings for those undergoing cancer treatment. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.

A second regional office’s location is to be determined.

The new Warsaw office is referred to as the west service area. Not only will it serve Kosciusko County, but also the northern part of Wabash County and the western parts of Noble and Whitley counties. “So anybody where Warsaw is closer than Fort Wayne,” Haffner said. “We wanted to land in a place that served people who were spending 45 to 60 minutes to get to us and make it a shorter (trip) and more accessible thing for a region of people.”

Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana is non-medical.

“All of the services that we have are kind of quality-of-life kinds of things, so we do practical services like supplies and equipment loan and financial assistance and volunteer transportation to treatment, those practical things. And then we also have a staff of professional advocates who provide personal support. We have professional counselors. They do a lot of resourcing. If we don’t have the things that they need, they’ll help find other resources externally,” she said.

They also have group programming like support groups, art therapy, music therapy and “all the kinds of things to help people kind of experience this.” They do a lot of movement with Tai Chi and yoga.

They offer wigs and other kinds of head coverings like hats where cancer patients can come and try them on to make sure they find a look that they’re comfortable with. Haffner said they can borrow them for as long as they need them and then bring them back when they’re finished with them, or exchange them for something different.

“We try to keep styles for older people, younger people, different colors of hair. There’s always an advocate there with them, helping them to choose that because it can be kind of emotional for some people,” she said. “It’s a big deal for folks. It’s important.”

In Fort Wayne, they also offer massages, which is one of the things they hope to eventually get at the Warsaw office.

“Our goal is to help kind of assess what people are looking for, where the gaps are in their support system and filling that, even whether that’s with our practical stuff or through meeting up with other people with cancer,” Haffner said.  

A banner at the Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana office at 2190 N. Pointe Drive, Warsaw, lists the various types of cancers with the ribbon that symbolizes that cancer. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.

As a nonprofit, Cancer Services’ services are basically free except there’s a slight sliding fee for the formal counseling program. Otherwise, everything is donor-funded. They don’t bill insurance and there’s no government income.

“It is virtually 100% donor-funded,” Haffner said.

Besides working with cancer patients, they also work with families of the patients. Last year, Cancer Services worked with 4,975 people in all 11 counties. That number keeps going up every year.

Haffner said their mission statement is that they work for people with cancer for everyone affected by cancer. “So, if that’s the person with cancer, or a loved one affected by their cancer, those services are met to get the whole family or support system what they need.”
Cancer Services welcomes volunteers. One of their biggest uses for volunteers is to help transport people to their cancer treatments.

“We coordinate volunteers who drive and we make sure they have good driver’s licenses and those sort of things. But it’s a huge need to help people get to treatments,” she said.
Warsaw has a cancer treatment center, but sometimes a person will need to travel to Fort Wayne or Goshen for a treatment.

Cancer Services gives away handmade disposable bed pads for people. Haffner said they have sewing groups that sew the bed pads, which are always continously flying off the shelves. She said they’re always looking for folks to help supply those.

At the west office, Haffner said they’ll be looking for volunteers to help greet and serve as receptionists to help make sure there’s somebody at the door to help direct people when they arrive.

“We do events, and we use volunteers to help plan and execute, like we’re hoping to do a Survivorship Celebration in June, so we’ll be looking for a volunteer committee to help throw that,” she said.

Whatever people want to gift to Cancer Services, they are willing to accept, whether that’s their time, talents or treasure.

The west office hours currently are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Within the first year, those hours could grow.

“Those are drop-in hours when people can just walk up, but we’ll probably have educational programs and other kinds of programs in the evenings and throughout the week that people can come to,” she said.

The website is always an accurate source for information on what’s happening at Cancer Services. It can be found at

For people on the mailing list, Cancer Services also puts out a monthly postcard of what’s happening that may not be a regular event. There’s a quarterly newsletter that has its regular programming listed in it. Cancer Services also works closely with the treatment centers so they know what’s going on at Cancer Services as well.

“The feedback that we get most often from folks is that the compassion that they experience with our advocates and from the agency just makes such a difference for them. That everything we do is side by side. If they walk in here, we’re available to them whenever they need us and we stay out of it if they don’t want us. It’s completely client-driven. Our agenda is whatever their agenda is. We don’t have any requirements of people except to meet them where they’re at and help them get to their next place wherever it is that they’re headed,” Haffner said.

She said Cancer Services believes in community.

“We believe that we’re all in this together. There isn’t anyone anymore hardly that isn’t affected by cancer, and people feel alone a lot of times when they get that diagnosis. I hear people talk a lot about kind of going backwards in a tunnel where they just feel isolated. And so helping resolve that loneliness or isolation with people who understand and people who have some expertise in this in a non-medical way. And just helping you with your life and not with your disease,” Haffner said.