The $8.3 million expansion and renovation of UMC's Southwest Cancer Center includes new exam rooms, an expanded pharmacy and a children's treatment area. The new expansion brings cancer specialists into one facility, streamlining patient care.
Jay Shinn was the architect of the center's new expansion. Sadly, during that process the 37-year-old father of three was himself diagnosed with an agressive form of cancer and died 40 days later, four months before the cancer center opened.
Jay's vision was one that would bring warmth, comfort and hope to patients at Southwest Cancer Center. Little did he know, he would one day have to walk a mile in their shoes. In October, Jay was diagnosed with a disease that would take him away from his wife, Shara, and three young boys far too soon. Shara says, "He was just a very laid back kind of guy, with a great heart; very compassionate with other people, loved his kids, loved his family."
When Shara looks around the center, every line, every element, reminds her of her late husband. Through his work, Jay used natural light and the elements of design in hopes of easing the discomfort associated with cancer treatment. Shara says, "When he did this cancer center, he seemed to have a very special place in his heart for it and we really had no understanding of why."
Perhaps, the answer came just two years after Jay began his work on the cancer center. At 37-years-old, he was training for a marathon, the picture of health, no symptoms at all until a chest pain sent him to the emergency room. Shara recalls, "They noticed some spots on his lung and they did a catscan and noticed his kidney had a tumor. The first thing he told me was, 'They think I might have cancer', and I just thought no they've gotta be wrong."
But the doctors weren't wrong, Jay had Renal Cell Carcinoma, a cancer that comes with a poor prognosis. Shara says, "He went into it with the attitude he was going to beat this, first thing out of his mouth was if Lance Armstrong can do it, I can to." Shara says Jay never gave into the notion he wouldn't make it through, but the cancer was too advanced and just 40 days later, the loving father and husband passed away.
Now, Shara and her three sons are left with only their memories of Jay. During their interview with NewsChannel 11, they sat in the cancer center's meditation room, Jay's pride and joy. Shara remembers, "He brought us in here to look at it and he said this is the smallest room in the building, but it is definitely the most powerful. You can look at the ceiling and it's like you're looking straight up to the heavens. There's something very special about this room."
Shara doesn't have to look far to figure out exactly what that is. In tears, she says, "I walked in last night and I felt like he was definitley here. It was was just overwhelming. It was like I walked in and I could feel his presence here."
Shara says she can't think of a better honor for Jay than knowing he was a part of something as special as the cancer center. As for his co-workers at Parkhill, Smith, & Cooper, they can't express enough how extrordinary Jay was as an architect, a mentor and a friend. One co-worker says Jay lived everyday like it was his last, even before he knew it was.
The Southwest Cancer Center's Director, told NewsChannel 11, plans for a permanent tribute to Jay are in the works.