Home > News & Events > Meet Colleen Peluso: CancerCare Manitoba Radiation Therapist (and so much more!)

Meet Colleen Peluso: CancerCare Manitoba Radiation Therapist (and so much more!)

The old adage, ‘If you want something done, ask a busy person,’ definitely applies to Colleen Peluso.

From her specialized work as a Radiation Therapy Accessory Fabrication Specialist to owning a part-time florist business specializing in designs for weddings and funerals (a skill she learned from her grandmother), Colleen’s life is active, busy and very full.

She is parent council president, organizes the work soup club, volunteers at the Winnipeg Humane Society (often fostering kittens), and plays on two soccer teams.

As a mom to three kids ages 10, 12, and 13, Colleen enjoys spending time with family, including at the family cabin with her parents and grandmother where she water-skis, kayaks and hikes. 

Since 2005, Colleen has applied this same level of enthusiasm and zest for life to her work with patients receiving radiation treatment.

“I am lucky to be able to say that I love the job, and the opportunity to have fun here. I’ve dressed up in several different costumes at work to help our pediatric patients feel more comfortable with treatments, but my favourite costume is a large inflatable purple Dino,” said Colleen, a past board member of the Canadian Association of Medical Radiation Technologists – Manitoba division (CAMRT-MB).

“I want the kids who come for treatments to be OK with coming for treatments, and even to enjoy their time here, so we plan themed days for fun, like dance parties, country music day, Taco Tuesday, Dinosaur day…anything the patient is excited about, really.”

And clearly, Colleen’s energy is infectious. She is persuasive, easily convincing her colleagues, and even members of other teams, to get in on the action. The dosimetrist team has decorated the linear accelerator (radiation machine) upon special request, transforming it overnight into a giant cat, complete with ears and a tail, as well as into a rabbit or dino, or any other required animal.

The team has printed out pictures of dinosaurs and decorated the room for a dino-loving kid. They had a patient who loved googley-eyes, so each day, they hid eyes somewhere in the room so the child would be excited to go on a scavenger hunt to search them out. They team has worn cowboy hats and sombreros, and they’ve worked with Child Life Specialists to design themed incentive charts with stickers.

“We have such a great group of staff here. We all want to see patients do well in treatment and be able to relax. We try to find out what patients like and then work with that theme to make it all just a little less painful of an experience.”

Colleen graduated from Radiation Therapy in Winnipeg in 2005, and she immediately moved to Hamilton, Ontario to work at Jurivenski Hospital and Cancer Centre, as there were no available positions here. In 2006, she took a position with Allen Blair Centre in Regina, Saskatchewan, and commuted home to Winnipeg most weekends to visit her then-fiancé, Marco.

“We owned a house together in Winnipeg already, so I would pop in an audio book and hit the road for the six-hour drive. My teammates in Regina were so kind and wonderful, and they would let me work the early shift so I could get the machines warmed up, then end my day early and get behind the wheel. Then Marco finally said, ‘it’s time to come home,’ so I accepted a casual position with CancerCare Manitoba, which turned into a term, and now I’m permanent.”

Colleen has spent a lot of time working with the machine shop at CancerCare to learn how to fabricate the specialized accessories the team needs to conduct safe and effective radiation treatments.

“If we’re treating a skin cancer like a basal or squamous cell, we use radiation that doesn’t go very deep. And we want it to only treat the affected area, not the surrounding tissue. In consultation with the doctor, we’ll determine the precise area to treat, then we can use materials to protect around that area.”

To fabricate custom accessories, Colleen might draw on a patient’s skin to make a template from which she will fabricate a thin piece of metal outlining the exact area to treat. Or she might use a silicone putty to fill a cavity (like an ear) and create a block.

“We sometimes do full body treatment, but we typically try very hard to lessen the radiation to surrounding structures. I also see it as my role to try to limit the negative emotional aspects of treatment. The calmer our patients are, especially children, the less likely they will move out of position. Sometimes kids will need to be sedated, which is a big process that takes a lot of resources, so we want to try to avoid that if we can.”

Healthcare Hero

In 2023, Colleen’s coworker, Renee Gentes, nominated her for Mark Scheifele’s Healthcare Hero award, and she was the lucky person to be picked. She invited Renee to join her, and together, they enjoyed a pregame meet-and-greet with Mark, a tour of the area and lower level, dinner and tickets to the game, and lounge access during the game. Colleen also received a signed health care hero jersey from Mark.

Colleen’s father also dedicates some of his time to CancerCare.

“My dad has volunteered for a variety of organizations throughout his life, and after retirement, he was looking for another way to give back. Every Monday, he drives back and forth from CancerCare to patients’ homes picking them up for treatment and dropping them off after. He is super social and loves talking to people, so driving the Wheels of Hope shuttle is just perfect for him. The funny part is that he’s so busy all day, I barely see him, even though we are at the same place.”

Colleen says that her work at CancerCare is both professionally and personally rewarding.

“It can be a long journey from the time of testing to a cancer diagnosis, then the person may have to go through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. They’ve likely been scared, struggling and dealing with feelings of a loss of control for quite some time. Anything we can do can to relieve some of those feelings is only going to be a benefit.”

When patients finish a course of treatment, they can choose to ring a bell to honour the milestone and the team will take photos and video with family, if desired.

“Honestly, I guess you could say I get pretty invested in the outcomes, but it’s difficult not to be. We get to know people quite well over the course of their treatment, so we want to help and celebrate them.”


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