When Bobbi Norris and her husband, David, first started searching for a cancer treatment center in 2015 to plot treatment for David's stomach cancer, they were very impressed with Florida Cancer Specialists.
But Bobbi Norris said the couple were concerned about the size of Florida Cancer Specialists' office in Lakewood Ranch.
"It was so small, and that was the reason we didn't initially pick them," Bobbi Norris said.
Instead, they went to the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, flying back and forth from their Lakewood Ranch home every other week. David Norris didn't like the traveling and eventually decided to change his treatment to Lakewood Ranch. Although David Norris died in November of 2018, Bobbi Norris said their treatment was second to none.
On Tuesday, Bobbi Norris was present as Florida Cancer Specialists opened its $16 million Lakewood Ranch Cancer Center at 5985 Silver Falls Run, in Lakewood Ranch's Collaboration Opportunities for Research and Exploration (CORE) project. The facility is more than twice the size of the previous Lakewood Ranch office.
"The size will allow them to provide the patients with many more services on site," said Bobbi Norris, who served on a patients' committee to offer feedback about the new building and what kinds of things should be incorporated. "And this is community based, right here in our backyard. It will have an intimate relationship with the community."
The building was designed by St. Petersburg-based Optimal Outcomes LLC, and it features 39 chemotherapy chairs, access to clinical trials, a PET/CT scanner room and 10 examination rooms. The building also will house the Florida Cancer Specialists' Foundation, a nonprofit that provides financial assistance to eligible cancer patients for essential, non-medical living expenses. The foundation donated $1.15 million in 2018.
"This community deserves this," said Miguel Pelayo, a Florida Cancer Specialists oncologist. "This gives us the ability to grow and keep up with the growth of Lakewood Ranch. We have the type of people living here who are healthy and they want to maintain their lifestyle. They want to be treated so they can get back to that lifestyle."
Dom DiMaio, the CEO and president of the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance, said the new cancer center is an example of what is going on in Lakewood Ranch medically. "This is part of those first building blocks of CORE," DiMaio said.
Florida Cancer Specialists CEO Brad Prechtl said the goal has been to expand and have a more comfortable setting for the patients. He said the new office represents a "significant investment in clinical research."
Pelayo said he wanted to tell his patients, "This office was made for you, your care. We are here to heal you in your greatest time of need."
DiMaio said Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch deserves a special thanks for the project.
"SMR has helped us build our community and build our businesses," DiMaio said.
Kirk Boylston, the president of Lakewood Ranch Commercial Realty, said working on a new building for the Florida Cancer Specialists made perfect sense for the community. "Florida Cancer Specialists is first in its class," he said.