House of Compassion advocates for local MMSC cancer center

Karen Frohwein, director of Marshalltown’s House of Compassion, and Andi Waker, assistant, have their hands full managing the facility’s homeless shelter, daily soup kitchen, supply closet and voucher programs among other tasks.

Regardless, the pair have taken on more responsibility to help community neighbor Marshalltown Medical & Surgical Center land a cancer treatment center.

In June, MMSC CEO John Hughes announced the hospital would seek to earn approval for the cancer center as part of a new hospital project currently under construction near Marshalltown Community College.

Hughes said a strategic planning process indicated a cancer care center was needed within the area.

He said many cancer patients currently have to drive more than an hour for cancer treatment.

Others find it necessary to drive longer distances, such as to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. and other sites.

“We think about the burden that places on people who already don’t feel well,” he said.

If approved, the center will feature medical and radiation oncology that will offer radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

“The center will treat a large percentage of cancers,” Hughes said.

But first, MMSC must submit a Certificate of Need to Iowa State Health Facilities Council this summer. With that application, MMSC must submit at least 1,000 letters from residents in the communities it serves describing the need for this type of cancer treatment center to help boost the chances of landing the certificate.

All of that resonated with Frohwein, a cancer survivor.

It also impacted Walker, House of Compassion clients and volunteers.

Frohwein and Walker started an in house letter writing campaign, and to date, have collected more than 140 endorsements.

“Many of our volunteers have known of someone, a family member, a friend, or neighbor, who has fallen victim to, or had to battle cancer, an insidious disease,” she said. “For our clients, traveling even one hour or more for treatment is a tremendous hardship on those who do not have a car, or if they do, have to struggle to budget gas money.”

Contact Mike Donahey at 641-753-6611 or