Female support group launched for proton therapy patients


Women who go through proton therapy for cancer have a set of unique needs, and now there’s a group to help address them.

Introducing, the Proton Gals, a support and advocacy group for women who have had or are undergoing proton therapy treatment. With the slogan “Supporting proton therapy and each other,” the group will provide a variety of programs and resources for current and former Provision patients.

The first meeting will be held at 5 p.m., Nov. 16 at the Provision Learning and Innovation Center. For more information or to RSVP, call Sharon Bishop Hall at 865-862-1625—or talk to her at the front desk at Provision Center for Proton Theray, where she serves as a hospitality coordinator. The group has a website and Facebook page devoted to exchanging stories and relevant information to proton therapy patients and cancer survivors.

“We want a venue for women to talk about what they’re going through,” says Hall.

Hall launched and coordinates the Proton Gals group, modeled after a similar program called Proton Guys, which brings together men who’ve gone through proton therapy as an informal support group and promoters of the treatment in the community. Since opening in January, 2014, Provision has treated 184 female patients for cancers ranging from breast to lung to Hodgkin lymphoma.

As a survivor of stage 3 breast cancer, Hall has had extensive experience in the cancer support community including involvement with local cancer support groups and one-on-one connection with cancer patients as a mastectomy fitter at Thompson Cancer Survival Center, the University of Tennessee Medical Center and Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center. She also is a member of the steering committee for the American Cancer Society’s “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” initiative and is a member of the Young Survival Coalition.

“You can talk to family, but it’s difficult for them to understand since they’re not in your shoes,” she says. “And, because the experience of cancer patients who have proton therapy is unique from those who have other forms of treatment, I thought it was important to create a forum especially for this group of survivors.”

Proton Gals will have quarterly meetings that will feature guest speakers, opportunity for one-on-one interaction, health and wellness information and an online community to allow members to stay connected and share their experiences. The group also will take on an advocacy role, helping promote improved access and insurance coverage for this more precise, less damaging alternative to conventional radiation therapy.

The group is designed to be a safe place for women receiving treatment at the proton therapy center that will continue to support and assist them after treatment is complete.

“There are side effects and after effects from cancer and the things your body has gone through as well as simply readjusting to ‘normal’ life, “ Hall says. “Just because you’re out of treatment doesn’t mean it’s all over.”