Partners in Cancer Care

January 10, 2021

Typically, we photograph every individual appearing in HealthU. Because this story was planned during the surge of COVID-19, that contact would have been too risky. Instead, our team took a creative approach and replaced photo shoots with illustrated portraits.

John and Helena Theurer were soulmates. They shared interests, passions and goals, and one rarely went anywhere without the other. John sadly passed away in 1994, but their incredible impact lives on through John Theurer Cancer Center and the Helena Theurer Pavilion. When the latter is completed in the fall of 2022, the two buildings will stand in close proximity on the campus of Hackensack University Medical Center.

“John and I were partners in life. To have two buildings so close together is a thrill,” Helena says.

In late 2019, Helena generously donated $25 million, the largest gift ever made to Hackensack Meridian Health, to advance cancer research and transform care at John Theurer Cancer Center. In honor of her remarkable contributions, its newest building was dedicated in her name. The Helena Theurer Pavilion will include 24 operating rooms, 150 private patient rooms and a 50-bed orthopedic center. Helena’s historic gift follows her first donation in 2008 to establish John Theurer Cancer Center, named in honor of her beloved late husband.

Helena’s relationship with the hospital dates back to a fateful evening spent touring a Designer Showhouse of New Jersey, a fundraiser for Hackensack. That night, Hackensack was featuring oncology doctors Andre Goy, M.D., M.S., and Andrew Pecora, M.D., FACP, CPE. “Helena got a chance to see what was on the horizon for cancer care at Hackensack,” says Helen A. Cunning, north regional president and chief development officer for Hackensack University Medical Center Foundation. “At the time, we were providing cutting-edge, patient-centered cancer services, but we were serving patients in four or five different locations. Our facilities didn’t match up to our exceptional care.”

Helena was inspired by what she heard. The next day, she called Dr. Goy to tell him that she wanted to donate $10 million to fund a comprehensive cancer center. “At first I thought it must be a joke,” Dr. Goy recalls. “I couldn’t believe everything was falling into place.”

Since then, Helena has graciously provided her time, talent and resources to the hospital.

“Helena saw an incredible need and a chance to make a difference,” Helen A. Cunning says. “It’s impossible to overstate her impact on what we have achieved and what her generosity will mean for the future of cancer care. We’ll forever be grateful.”

Each year, Helena has the opportunity to hear from cancer survivors and their families at the annual Celebrating Life and Liberty event, which draws thousands of people at MetLife Stadium. “Survivors and caregivers line up to thank Mrs. Theurer for her encouragement and support, and to tell her, ‘I’m still here,’” Helen A. Cunning says.

Helena adds: “I feel blessed that I can continue my financial support. I hope one day cancer is in the history books. With Drs. Goy and Pecora, we’re going to make a difference in my lifetime.”

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.