Casey is a two time breast cancer survivor and care coordinator at Provision CARES Proton Therapy Knoxville. She answers phone calls and helps answer the questions of cancer patients every day, but with her experience on both sides of the phone, Casey is offering readers a unique perspective as someone who has been both a patient and someone who helps patients. To meet Casey, you can read part one of her blog series, Casey’s Story: Learning she has cancer for a second time
After all my tests and scans were complete, it was definite. Dr. Brig, my medical oncologist, told me I would have radiation therapy as part of my treatment protocol to make sure I never see this breast cancer again. My doctor knew that I know how important of a role proton therapy will play in my life with left sided breast cancer. Was I excited to undergo 34 radiation treatments? Not at all. Was I anxious about the possible side effects and time involved? I knew I would be tethered to Knoxville for the next 6.5 weeks, with only weekends off in between treatments. I mean, several months ago, I actually had a life! I regrouped and breathed a sigh of relief because I knew I would be in good hands at Provision.
A consult with one of our radiation oncologists is always the first step. A care coordinator that I have worked with for the past 2 years quickly gathered all my medical records and set me up to see Dr. Ben Wilkinson who spent time with me explaining how many fractions (treatments) of radiation I needed and how it may affect the skin around my left breast and axilla area, as well as my fatigue levels throughout treatment. He reassured me that he would be checking me weekly, right after one of my treatment days. Brittany, one of our awesome nurse practitioners, would also check my skin regularly. No stone would be unturned. If I needed anything, I knew who to ask.
Very shortly after consult I had what is called a CT Simulation. This is essentially a scan of your body to provide the contours needed for treatment planning. It took about an hour which was a bit longer than I expected in a slightly uncomfortable position with my arms above my head and lying flat on the table. Kerry, one of our incredible radiation therapists, made this procedure seamless for me. Not only is she an expert at what she does but she cares…and shows it in her disposition and heart-warming smile. A physicist, Sammie, was also present to help with body positioning and placement. We all know Sammie to be brilliant, energetic, beautiful and funny. She was one of many who would be making sure I never see breast cancer again.
After CT Simulation, I waited. I waited for these committed, hardworking, all knowing people behind closed doors of Provision Cares Proton Therapy to plan my treatment. They are a team of radiation oncologists, dosimetrists, physicists and radiation therapists. Not your average run of the mill people, but exceptionally trained and smart folks. All of whom are working on a treatment plan for me to be able to continue living my best life. It is truly humbling to me to be surrounded by such intelligence and excellence. It is fun too…. we laugh a lot at work and we appreciate each other. Not a bad gig for this girl. I love coming to work.
In the meantime, I patiently waited for my start date and appreciated all the hard work that brought me to this point in my interaction with Provision from a patient’s viewpoint. Many, many people got me to this point. The Finance/Insurance teams who work tirelessly to verify insurance benefits and fight for coverage….the Concierge team who coordinate countless appointments and make sure you as a patient are up to date on where you are supposed to be and what time….and our fabulous Hospitality team who treat you and your family members like guests in their home. What we call our “Culture of Care” is experienced in all facets of care at Provision. We know it is a hard time…a scary and challenging time, for many patients and their loved ones. We want our patients and their families to feel respected and cared for. I always smile when I peek downstairs at our lobby and see patients having coffee and chatting…after their treatment is finished. It is a beautiful thing. The next step for me? Starting my treatments.
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