SAN FRANCISCO - Former Giants pitcher Dave Dravecky -- who was diagnosed with cancer in 1989 and had his left arm amputated -- was at St. Francis Hospital in San Francisco Monday to put finishing touches on upgrades to the facility's chemotherapy treatment rooms.
Dave Dravecky knows a thing or two about painting.
“They used to call me Rembrandt when I was pitching,” said Dravecky. “Why? Because I painted. I hit the black on both sides of the plate. A little high, a little low, sometimes under the chin.”
He also knows about cancer. On Monday, Dravecky was painting a wall instead of home plate. The former Giant and cancer survivor was the perfect candidate to help finish refurbishing the St. Francis Hospital chemotherapy rooms.
“Even though I didn’t experience chemo because it wasn’t effective with the cancer that I had, I have over the years met many who have been in chemo rooms,” said Dravecky. “I know what they go through.”
“The rooms as they were were kind of gray, kind of sterile, not very warm and fuzzy,” said St. Francis Foundation President Kevin Causey. “We really worked on the environment, so if people have to sit here and get infused with that awful stuff, at least the view’s nice.”
That view includes – appropriately enough – AT&T Park. And as Dravecky points out, the baseball motif doesn’t stop there.
“One of these rooms has been created with the Giants theme. Which is so cool because, who’s not a Giants fan in SF?” asked Dravecky.
The driving force behind the project is a nonprofit organization called – appropriately enough - Rooms That Rock 4 Chemo. Nancy Ballard, the group’s Executive Director, explains its mission as “creating positive healing and uplifting spaces that spiritually, emotionally, and physically support chemotherapy patients.”
“They come in today and they say, ‘What happened to that room? How come it’s so beautiful? Who did this, Who cared?’” says Ballard. “And, like the Easter Bunny, we sneak in and sneak out. We never get to see the patients, but we just know that it makes a difference because environment matters.”
The renovations are obviously uplifting for patients receiving treatment, but they are equally appreciated by those providing it. To that end, Ballard explains, the nurses’ lounge also got a much-needed facelift.
“When the nurses helped is do the joy wall behind us, they were crying. It meant so much to them that somebody cared enough to come in and make a difference not only for them but for their patients.”
It’s a difference which Dravecky can appreciate as much as anyone -- not only as a cancer survivor, but as a former pro athlete who knows as well as anyone that atmosphere affects emotion.
“Creating an environment where you come in you already have this incredible thing staring you in the face that is creating a lot of uncertainty and a lot of concern over life, to come to a place where get settled into something like this that’s so beautiful and it helps you to actually cope.”