Cancer treatment rooms can be intimidating. The large machines used to deliver radiation treatment fill the entire space. Susie Collier, RT(R)(T), department manager of radiation oncology at Saint Joseph Hospital and Saint Joseph East, was brainstorming one day with a coworker about how to make the treatment room more cheerful. And then she thought — why not take down a ceiling tile and paint something pleasant?
“I only took one down and painted ‘Faith, Hope, Love’ on it,” Collier said. “I wanted to see if anyone noticed. Everyone noticed and loved it! It was something pretty for patients to focus on while lying on the treatment table instead of a white ceiling.”
Patients started requesting painted tiles in different locations around the room to easily see when in position for treatment. One by one, Collier, who also teaches Sunday school, took down tiles and painted them with Bible verses and inspirational quotes. Now, several colorful tiles form a cross on the ceiling and brighten the room.
“It was something so simple,” Collier said. “But not a day goes by without a patient saying it gave them hope and comfort.”
Cancer treatment is tough, but Collier works hard to make sure a patient leaves smiling and encouraged. The department also hosts parties to give a distraction from pain during treatment, and Collier regularly helps with the themed events, including hat contests for patients and employees, summer fun days and the crowd-pleasing “I Will Survive” disco party.
Inspired by Her Mother, AKA Her Biggest Cheerleader
Collier’s love for caring for people began at a young age. As a child, she took bandages and placed them on everyone, and her mother knew she would go into the health care field one day.
“She couldn’t keep Band-Aids in the house,” Collier recalled. “She thought I would go into nursing or health care of some form.”
Collier started her medical journey by attending school to become a radiologic technologist. She worked a few years doing imaging in surgery and the emergency room but discovered her true love when she cross-trained in radiation therapy. She went back to school at the University of Kentucky to become a radiation therapist. Now, she’s been in radiation therapy for over 30 years, stepping into the role of department manager and currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in health care management.
“I couldn’t have done it without my mom,” Collier said. “She encouraged me to reach my goals and helped me every step of the way in school.”
In 2010, Collier’s mom was diagnosed with cancer. She underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and eventually entered hospice. Collier had worked years administering cancer treatment for others, and now she was on the other side as a caregiver.
“It helped me,” Collier said. “When she passed, I grew more in this field. Now I have more empathy for patients and caregivers.”
To learn more about radiation oncology services at Saint Joseph, visit CHISaintJosephHealth.org/lexington-radiation-oncology.