Sylvester Breast Cancer Patient Celebrates Final Chemo Session at The Lennar Center

When Ileana Cohn, a Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center breast cancer patient, scheduled her 16th, and final, chemotherapy session at The Lennar Foundation Medical Center for Feb. 8, she told her husband, Andy, “I want a celebration.”

That’s what she got, but Ileana could hardly have imagined the lengths to which he and staffers at The Lennar Center would go to make the afternoon special. The visitors who showed up at her bay in the Comprehensive Treatment Unit (CTU) — family, friends, Sylvester medical and nursing staffers, and administrators — spilled out into the sitting lounge and the hallway.

They arrived bearing flowers, balloons, sparkling cider, candy and pink-frosted doughnuts baked in the shape of letters spelling out “Go Ileana.” The CTU presented her with a framed Purple Heart Award for chemo completion that was signed by all of the staffers. Erica Marie Gard, a friend of a friend, who is a guitarist and student at UM’s Frost School of Music, stopped by to play for Ileana.

There was laughter, a spirit of connection and, just days before Valentine’s Day, an atmosphere of love.

Two surprise visitors were Sebastian the Ibis, wearing a white Sylvester lab coat, and Hurricanes football coach Mark Richt. When Richt walked through the door, leaned over and gave Ileana a big hug, her tears began to flow.

“I have such a crush on him,” said Ileana, “and he’s so much cuter in person.

“My life is now complete,” she added, laughing.

“It was great being there for such a special event,” said Richt. “I was very happy to do it.”

Sebastian, as usual, was silent.

The UM links were important because Ileana and Andy, now 33, met as undergraduates, and started their family shortly after. Andy arranged for their children, David, 10, and Sofia, 7, to come straight from school with Ileana’s mother, Ileana Camblor, as another big surprise. Nothing, he said, is more important to Ileana than her close friends and family.

Ileana has now completed just the first part of her cancer treatment. She is scheduled for surgery on March 8; radiation treatment will follow.

“I’m not sure what I will do on Wednesdays now,” joked Ileana. “Coming here has become a part of my life. I typically have lunch with a friend — sometimes Andy takes the metro over from Brickell, where he works, to join us on his lunch break — and then have chemo. While I am being treated, I walk around in my socks, and everyone knows this is my home away from home. I have made great friends among the staff here, and they have made this part of the journey a little easier.

“I cannot tell you how much I enjoy coming here,” she continued. “I love the way it lets the light in. This doesn’t feel like a place where patients come to be sick; it feels like a place where patients come to get well. But the building doesn’t make the people. The whole staff here is dedicated to making the patient experience special.”

“I want to thank everyone at The Lennar Center for making my wife’s day so special,” said Andy. “They really went over the top, and we could not be more proud to be part of the ‘U’ family. They took 20 weeks that included some dark moments and let us cap it off with a beautiful day packed full of amazing memories for all of us.”

Photos from the celebration can be seen here.

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