Cancer center project team honored

by Kalani Simpson, UNMC public relations | June 14, 2016

Image with caption: Holly Radke, Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center events coordinator, left, and Peg Ricketts , a member of the Patient Family Advisory Council, celebrate a lucky-number drawing.

Holly Radke, Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center events coordinator, left, and Peg Ricketts , a member of the Patient Family Advisory Council, celebrate a lucky-number drawing.

Members of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center project team, some who have worked on the project since 2012, recently gathered for a team appreciation luncheon.

As part of the program, presenters cited cancer statistics. They talked about budget and timeline. They talked about the impact of building design and proper construction techniques to ensure future patients' immune system health.

They talked about how, through all of the challenges and adjustments in the four years-and-counting project, there has always been teamwork.

But more than anything, they talked about what this facility will mean.

"We construction guys tend to be focused on the build," said Kiewit project manager Phil Spencer. But the longer he has been on the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center project, he said, "You see it's not about the glass and concrete. This project is about curing cancer and caring for patients. It's about doing the right thing."

Ken Cowan, M.D., Ph.D., the cancer center's director, told a crowd of approximately 90 from Nebraska Medicine/UNMC Facilities and Cancer Services, HDR and Kiewit: "The building you are working on here will be the most important project you will ever work on."

That point was driven home by Peg Ricketts, a two-time cancer survivor and member of the medical center Patient Family Advisory Council. She talked about not feeling well and searching for answers, before finally being given what could have been devastating news. But instead of destroying her, the cancer diagnosis at last gave her strength -- the resolution to stop whining, which she had been taught by her mother never to do, and start fighting.

She talked about her son, who was serving in Iraq, and how they made a deal. He would keep his head down, and she would keep hers up.

She talked about how he was shot and came home. "And we healed together," she said.

And then, having beaten cancer twice, Ricketts became a member of the Patient Family Advisory Council, a group providing ongoing input on the new facility since the initial planning stages. In early January, she toured the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center construction site with a host of other patients and survivors. She was impressed by the majesty of the building -- but even more so, by the people working on it.

The way they spoke about the patients the building will serve . . . she could tell they knew what they were doing mattered.

"From that day forward," she told the project team members, "I kept all of you in my prayers."

The new facility is less than one year away from opening in 2017.

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