College basketball legend and Tampa Bay icon Dick Vitale rang the victory bell signifying his remission from cancer at Sarasota Memorial Hospital Thursday.
In a small gathering outside the hospital’s oncology tower, Vitale shared his love for his family, his oncology team, and the many friends and fans who have supported him with daily tweets, messages and prayers.
"Mr. Vitale during his cancer journey has really been a beacon of hope for many and it's a burden to go through a cancer diagnosis, but how he has responded to it is actually uplifting others," said Kelly Batista, Executive Director at Brian D. Jellison Cancer Institute at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.
He said he drew inspiration through his own cancer journey by the words of his friend and legend in his own right, Jim Valvano, also known as Jimmy V.
The oncology team presented him with a river rock they hand-painted with a basketball, March Madness brackets and a NCAA Final Four theme. Vitale also selected a rock inscribed with the word “Love” to leave behind in the hospital’s Oncology Tower rock garden to inspire cancer patients following in his footsteps.
"Those messages of hope and healing amass overtime in that water feature so that more patients who come after them will have those messages to carry them through their own journeys," said Batista.
In October 2021, doctors at Sarasota Memorial’s Jellison Cancer Institute diagnosed Vitale with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He underwent six rounds of chemotherapy and completed his last course on Thursday. His PET scan in March showed no signs of lymphoma, said Richard Brown, MD, medical director of the Jellison Cancer Institute and the medical oncologist managing Vitale’s cancer care.
“At 82, despite all of the treatments, traveling and medical challenges, Dick has done phenomenally well – he is in remission and we are excited to see him return to the life he loves,” said Brown, who will continue to provide follow-up care and periodic scans to monitor Vitale for any signs of recurrence.
During the chemo completion ceremony, Vitale recognized his medical team and nurses by name, saying “If I were on ESPN now, I would simply say, “They are AWESOME baby, with a capital A!”