Inside UM’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, tucked away in a forgotten corner of a reception area, is a simple testament to the services provided by the Center.
It is a banner from the 2011 Dolphin Cycling Challenge, signed by the cancer survivors who gathered for the end of the ride at Sun Life Stadium.
The challenge is an annual two-day bike ride that spans across Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. In order to participate, riders pledge to raise money based on how many miles they ride. All proceeds go to the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Most of the scrawled messages are brief: “I love you Dr. Goodwin,” “Thanks for my second chance at life” and “Never again.”
This year on Nov. 3 and 4, the Dolphin Cycling Challenge will take over the roads of South Florida again as riders look to beat last year’s fundraising accomplishment of $1,070,000.
“This is a very worthy cause,” said Connie Nickel, assistant director at the Wellness Center, who was treated for breast cancer at Sylvester.
In 2011, Sylvester received approximately 4,000 new cancer patients, treated about 32,000 patients with chemotherapy and operated on approximately 2,400 patients.
Felicia McTiller, 31, is battling against her third bout of cancer at Sylvester. For McTiller, Sylvester’s option to receive treatment without being admitted is “a lifesaver.”
“I really could not see myself choosing another facility,” she said. “UM is on the cutting-edge of everything.”
According to Dr. Stephen Nimer, the director of Sylvester, the Center is focused on improving the patient experience.
“The idea is there are supports that can be given to adults with cancer to make the experience better: acupuncture, massage therapy, relaxation techniques,” he said.
For children, Sylvester recently launched Alex’s Place, a new pediatric oncology clinic that features interactive displays and large play areas.
“The kids love it,” said Jessica Ardente, a nurse practitioner who works at Alex’s Place. “It’s like someone breathed fresh air into the clinic.”
Sylvester also invests in cancer research.
“We have so much progress to make, prolonging the life of patients with cancer, relieving pain, curing cancer,” Nimer said.
One of the advantages of doing research at Sylvester is what Nimer, who is now researching leukemia, describes as “big science.”
“Big science involves multiple labs. It’s when you go across different disciplines,” he said.
Most research projects eventually translate into improved treatment options for patients.
Dr. Krishna Komanduri has worked at Sylvester since 2008 and focuses on stem cell transplantation.
Under his supervision, the Center has gone from conducting about 45 stem cell transplants a year in 2008 to 20 transplants in July and August of this year alone.
At the end of the day, Sylvester’s main goal is to make sure that patients are able to be diagnosed and receive treatment at the center.
“We believe strongly that where you are diagnosed with cancer is important,” Nimer said. “Sylvester doesn’t just want to take care of people after they have failed chemotherapy elsewhere.”