GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Vidant Health's massive new cancer center tower on the medical center campus in Greenville, scheduled to open in March, is a monument of sorts to the medical community's all-out commitment to conquer the dreaded killer that claims so much of this region's human treasure.

For those engaged inside on the front lines of the battle, a quiet corner behind the building has been set aside as a place of respite; a meditative "healing garden."

Rows of lighted walkways, bordered on all sides by flowering shrubbery, rock and water sculptures, benches and a patio pergola with wooden tables and chairs, outlined by sandstone brickwork comprise the small park.

The garden will be used by the patients, visitors, caregivers and staff of the new cancer center tower, said Phyllis DeAntonio, system service line administrator for Vidant cancer care, who hosted a preview to the media Friday. Its theme and that of the entire buiolding is eastern North Carolina, so the features that comprise it are common to the region, DeAntonio said

One of the essential components of the garden, conceived years ago by a working group designing the center, is a labyrinth designed and currently being installed by artist Tom Schulz of EnnisArt in Asheville. It will be a significant piece of Vidant's support and survivorship management program.

"A labyrinth is one of the oldest images mankind has made, and has come back to popularity after almost disappearing from human thought" Schulz said. "Walking the labyrinth has been proven to lower blood pressure. They are popular in churches, universities and other places where people need to think. It's especially poignant here at the cancer center because there are so many emotions that will be felt in this garden; walking the labyrinth is a way of dealing with those."

Vidant Chaplain Marilyn Davis will teach patients and others how to walk the labyrinth.

"This garden adds to the medical management of our patients while also considering taking into account the psychosocial, emotional and spiritual components of cancer care, taking care of the whole patient," DeAntonio said. "Walking the labyrinth can be used for meditation, prayer or just a breath of fresh air to clear the head. Many of our patients are on a journey, so it can represent that journey as well."

Vidant staff have learned a lot about how complementary and alternative therapies, the effects of nutrition and exercise are essential components cancer treatment, DeAntonio said.

"We have seen positive results that result in less need for pain medications and less symptom management when these complementary modalities are used in addition to their medical management of their cancer and its accompanying side effects," she said.

The healing garden is the largest of three being installed at the center, DeAntonio said. A second garden will be for viewing only, by patients in the building's infusion and radiation centers. The third garden will be a place for staff to decompress or have celebrations, she said. Funding for all three has been incorporated into the entire tower project cost, she said.

___

Information from: The Daily Reflector, http://www.reflector.com