SARASOTA — Nearly 50 cancer patients, physicians and contractors took their turns entering the partially built radiation vault, where they would scrawl messages of hope for future cancer patients.
One man scribbled a note to a loved one: "Dad, hope is here."
Another left a message for all those who would one day receive care at Sarasota Memorial Hospital's first radiation oncology center: "You have chosen the right place."
As some waited to go in, others reached for colored markers and slowly began writing heartfelt messages across the vault's concrete walls.
The $27 million, 17,000-square-foot radiation oncology center — slated to open next summer — will feature two radiation vaults designed to destroy cancer cells while leaving normal cells intact. The center will also include a CT simulator, integrative care services and a serenity patio to promote healing.
Dawn Moore, of Englewood, was diagnosed with breast cancer 13 years ago. She was among the first to adorn the vault's walls, and chose to leave a few words of encouragement: "It's a big bump in the road, but you'll get past it and you'll thrive."
As someone who overcame her battle with cancer, Moore said she wanted to remind others that the chances of recovery exist for them, too.
"When you hear the words, 'You have cancer,' the first thing you think of is, 'Oh my God, I'm going to die," Moore said. "Cancer is not a death sentence. I need to make sure people know that they will get past it."
Richard Brown, the medical director of Sarasota Memorial Hospital's Cancer Institute, noted that the radiation oncology center's state-of-the-art equipment is imperative to creating a better quality of life for patients.
"I tell my patients that whatever time I can keep them out of my office is good for them," he said. "Because that means that they're doing things that they want to do, rather than having to come for their therapy."
Brown would leave a message on the wall for two colleagues, both of whom succumbed to cancer.
"Alan and Nick, bring your healing powers here where they are needed."