The gong—three clangs that echo through the lobby, treatment rooms, work station cubicles. It’s startling for first-time visitors and new employees.
It quickly becomes the joyous reminder of why we’re here.
Today, the 1000th patient rang the graduation bell to applause of patients, former graduates, employees and supporters of the Provision Center for Proton Therapy.
Less than two-and-a-half years after the cancer treatment center opened at the Dowell Springs Campus in Knoxville, Tenn., the center has grown from one treatment room treating three patients on Jan. 20, 2014, to three treatment rooms treating more than 90 patients per day. At the end of a patient’s course of therapy, he or she celebrates by ringing the “victory bell” in the lobby of the therapy center.
Each patient gets to say a few words. Some crack jokes about the idiosyncrasies of proton therapy. Some talk about their personal cancer journeys. Many recognize their support network of family and friends. All speak of their appreciation for the staff, the atmosphere, the open and inviting lobby that encourages relaxation and socializing—things that make the cancer treatment center feel so little like one. What Provision refers to as it’s “Culture of Care.”
Proton therapy is a form of radiation therapy that targets tumors and limits collateral damage to surrounding healthy tissue. Provision founder Terry Douglass’s vision of establishing a comprehensive cancer treatment campus began after he spent a career developing PET and PET/CT technology, used most often to diagnose cancer. He and his partners sold the business in 2004 to Siemens for $1 billion.
After following the progress of proton therapy in cancer treatment in recent years, he decided to bring the technology to Knoxville—and ultimately, through Provision division ProNova Solutions—began building the machines himself. Today, the company is pursuing development of new treatment centers, modeled after Provision Center for Proton Therapy, in the U.S. and around the world.
Since opening, Provision has treated cancers, and a few non-cancerous tumors, on 53 sites in the body. Cancers treated include head and neck, lung, esophageal, endocrine, prostate, breast, brain, bladder, sarcoma, tongue, lymph nodes, sinuses, bladder, eye and colon cancers as well as pediatric cancers.
“With 1,000 patients successfully treated, we have established our reputation for excellence in medical treatment and customer care,” says Tom Welch, president of Provision Center for Proton Therapy. “Since we’ve opened our doors, many of the area physicians have seen the benefits of proton therapy for their patients and have their support and involvement in our center has continued to grow.”
Availability of proton therapy is expanding, but with just 22 centers across the United States and even less availability worldwide, many of Provision’s patients come from outside East Tennessee. Alumni represent 29 states and eight countries including the Netherlands, Taiwan, Mexico, Brazil and China.
One thousand patients. Three thousand gongs of the victory bell. That’s a whole lot of joy.