Sep 27, 2021 Cancer Treatment for Mind, Body and Spirit

Hyla Weiss, left, and Suzanne Unger, founders of Comfort Project 360, on the grounds of Saint Barnabas Medical Center

Comfort Project 360 brings a holistic approach to world-class cancer care.

Both Hyla Weiss and Suzanne Unger were impacted by cancer. Hyla Weiss is a two-time cancer survivor and Suzanne Unger lost her mother to breast cancer. “At a mutual friend’s birthday party, we talked about our experiences and realized that we wanted to put together our understanding of the cancer journey and make things better for others,” Suzanne recalls.

The result was Comfort Project 360, with a mission to enhance comfort and well-being for cancer patients at Saint Barnabas Medical Center (SBMC). Now in its eighth year, the project has become an integral part of the world-class cancer care at the Cancer Center at SBMC. Comfort Project 360 has raised more than $10 million and touched more than 50,000 people.

Help For Healing

As a cancer survivor, Hyla understood how much the environment impacts a patient’s care. “It is not only about receiving outstanding clinical care. Having a welcoming and soothing environment to receive care dramatically improves and enhances one’s experience,” Hyla says.

Suzanne and Hyla met with doctors at the Cancer Center to better understand the needs of the organization and determine ways Comfort Project 360 could support cancer patients and their families. Working with the clinical team and members of the hospital staff, Hyla and Suzanne set out to transform the patient experience in Radiation Oncology and then Medical Oncology.

The transformations began with the physical environment. Both departments were renovated, incorporating healing colors, beautiful photographs of nature, specialized lighting and updated finishes to enrich the overall look of the facility. “Research shows that light, colors and artwork are soothing to people’s minds as well as their bodies,” Suzanne says.

Based on feedback from staff and patients, the focus shifted to embracing the patients directly. Twice daily, volunteers make the rounds with a Comfort Cart, offering healthy snacks and games along with a listening ear for patients and loved ones. Beautiful and comfortable robes were purchased for patients receiving radiation treatment.

At the start of treatment, patients are given special welcome kits designed to meet specific needs for people undergoing radiation therapy or chemotherapy. And, for every patient’s final treatment, graduation gifts are given to celebrate the milestone.

Comfort Project 360 continues to grow and evolve, providing new offerings to cancer patients at SBMC. This fall, the group will be expanding their involvement with the hospital and entering the arena of cancer prevention by providing services to the newly renovated Breast Center at the Barnabas Health Ambulatory Care Center. To that end, they’re carefully studying the facility and planning to launch a program similar to the Comfort Cart in that location.

“Saint Barnabas Medical Center is committed to providing outstanding care and clinical excellence,” says Michael Scoppetuolo Jr., MD, Medical Director of the Cancer Center at SBMC. “Our partnership with Comfort Project 360 has enhanced our healing environment and expanded the programs and services we offer.”

Says Hyla, “The future of Comfort Project 360 is so bright, because there are endless opportunities for us to meet the needs of patients.”

Donate to or learn more about Comfort Project 360.