On August 25, 2020, Jason W. eagerly rang the victory bell to mark the completion of his tonsil cancer treatment. In doing so, he became the 500th patient to complete treatment at Nashville’s only proton therapy center, reminding us all that cancer and cancer treatment do not delay during a global pandemic.
CHOOSING PROTON THERAPY FOR TONSIL CANCER
When Jason was told he would need radiation therapy as part of his tonsil cancer treatment plan, he consulted multiple physicians to discuss his options. Those included traditional x-ray radiation and proton therapy.
“The reason I chose proton therapy is because what they explained to me about traditional radiation and proton therapy were two different animals,” said Jason. “Proton therapy is a lot less invasive, a lot more precise, and didn’t require an exit point. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to make that decision.”
Jason’s treatment was focused on destroying the cancer cells and minimizing side effects by avoiding unnecessary radiation exposure to critical structures in the head, neck and throat.
Proton therapy can be an ideal treatment for many head, neck, and oral cancers, including tonsil cancer. Its ability to precisely target the tumor can help patients maintain better nutritional health by improving their ability to swallow and reducing the risk of needing a feeding tube.
MARKING THE MILESTONE
To celebrate his tonsil cancer treatment completion, Jason and his wife, Maria, held a small, socially distant graduation ceremony at the Nashville proton center. With visitor limitations in place as a safety precaution, other members of his family joined the gathering virtually through FaceTime.
The hospitality team at Provision presented Jason with a certificate commemorating the milestone, as well as a card signed by staff members who had come to know and love him over the course of his treatment.
“We have just loved having Jason here. He brought a lot of energy into this place,” said one of the proton center’s Hospitality Coordinators. “For someone going through such a challenging treatment, to see his smile every day and hear all his stories – it’s just brought a lot of joy to all of us.”
To cap off the ceremony, Jason rang the victory bell three times. It’s a tradition for cancer patients that’s thought to have been started in 1996 by U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Irve Le Moyne. As Le Moyne was nearing the end of his cancer treatment, he told his doctor he wanted to uphold a Navy tradition and ring a bell “when the job was done.” Jason became the 500th proton therapy patient to ring the bell at the center.
Provision prides itself on our Culture of CARE, which focuses on the dignity and value of every person. Jason said the culture was evident during his time at the proton center. “The care I’ve received at Provision has been excellent. The people’s attitude there is positive, and the overall atmosphere is welcoming, warm, and friendly. I just want to thank everyone there from the bottom of my heart.”
EXPANDING PATIENT ACCESS TO PROTON THERAPY
The completed treatment of this center’s 500th patient is a significant achievement in Provision’s mission to expand patient access to proton therapy across the country, and the globe.
“As the developer of the first and only proton therapy center in Nashville, we have been well received by cancer patients in this region who are seeking cancer treatment options,” said Mary Lou DuBois of Provision Healthcare.
Since October 2018, middle Tennesseans have had access to one of the world’s most advanced forms of cancer treatment. Proton therapy precisely targets the tumor and lowers the risk of damage to nearby healthy tissue and organs, thereby reducing side effects, complications, and the risk of developing another cancer.
Access to proton therapy has grown since first coming to Tennessee in January 2014. At that time, there were only 13 operating proton centers in the country. As of August 2020, there were 35 operating centers, with many more in development.
On April 25, 2019, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed into law the “Proton Therapy Access Act” that expanded insurance coverage of proton therapy to members on the Tennessee state benefit plan, effective January 2020. This legislation will benefit thousands of lives in Tennessee.