Kari says being her own advocate allowed her to choose proton therapy for breast cancer treatment

Self-advocacy, persistence lead breast cancer patient to proton therapy


Kari describes her breast cancer experience as a long journey filled with little blessings – small moments that popped up occasionally to guide her in the right direction. She calls these blessings her “angels,” and she’s not sure where she would be today without them. In fact, one of those angels led her to Provision CARES Proton Therapy.

“That made such a difference, because I’d never heard about proton therapy,” Kari recalls. “I was so excited. It seemed like a very good option – an alternative to traditional radiation – and I couldn’t believe there was something so amazing so close to home!”

Kari chose proton therapy as part of her breast cancer treatment plan because it could minimize damage to her body compared to traditional x-ray radiation. Now, she’s sharing her experience in hopes of helping other cancer patients understand they have treatment options.

Her advice to other patients is to always advocate for yourself and choose the treatment you think is best. She also highly recommends receiving treatment at Provision CARES Proton Therapy.

“Provision is not an ordinary place, it’s an extraordinary place with extraordinary people.”


While Kari’s journey ultimately led her to Provision, it began years earlier in a place very far from home – on another continent, as a matter of fact.

It was the spring of 2019. Kari was 35 years old and had been living in South America for almost a decade. That’s when she first noticed something was off. She was experiencing pain in her breast and felt some hardness under the skin. At the time, she didn’t feel the need to do anything about it, but a few months later, things started to escalate.

“I got shingles right under my right breast where I had first noticed the changes,” Kari remembers.

While researching shingles, she came across an article that said it was a condition that can occur in people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients.

“Cancer?” she thought.

Perhaps it seemed a bit extreme to jump from shingles to cancer, but something about that “C” word was lingering in the back of her mind. She just couldn’t shake the feeling that something more serious might be going on.

She decided to seek medical help but wasn’t very familiar with Brazil’s health system. In her ten years abroad, she’d only been to a healthcare provider once before. In addition, as a 35-year-old woman, she found it difficult to schedule a mammogram. So, she made an appointment for an annual well-exam with an OB/GYN.

She remembers that doctor trying to brush her off after the initial physical exam, but Kari insisted on doing an ultrasound. That revealed a mass of some type, but given Kari’s age, the doctor thought it was probably a benign mass known as a fibroadenoma.

“It’s all about, ‘I’m too young,’ right? I’m too young to have cancer. So, the doctor told me not to worry and to come back in six months to see if it had grown.”


Reluctantly, Kari agreed to wait it out and see what happened. But as the months went by, she didn’t see progress. In fact, she was pretty sure the mass was getting bigger. She decided not to wait the full six months to back to the doctor, but just as she tried to schedule an earlier date, the world came to a halt.

It was now March of 2020, and the COVID pandemic made it impossible for Kari to see a provider any sooner than her originally scheduled follow-up in April. At that appointment, the doctor confirmed the mass had grown, but still didn’t seem worried.

However, Kari wasn’t convinced, and she pushed for a biopsy. The doctor eventually agreed to help schedule an appointment with a provider who offered biopsies, but due to COVID delays, it would be another month before she could finally get one.

A few days after the biopsy – about a year after she initially sensed something was wrong – Kari got the results. They were sent to her in a document on her phone, so she would have to interpret them herself. But they were in Portuguese, her second language. Even if they had been in English, trying to understand high-level terms and abbreviations on a medical document would be a challenge. However, there was one word that stood out, making the results very evident to Kari.

“All I had to do was look at the word ‘carcinoma.’ I knew I had cancer.”


Shortly after being diagnosed, Kari encountered the first of her “little angels.” It was an American physician – a friend of the family – who began emailing Kari with advice and guidance on how to seek out treatment options. This physician wasn’t technically Kari’s doctor. He wouldn’t get paid for his advice or guidance. He simply wanted to help Kari find a path to treatment.

That path would be very difficult if she were to stay in Brazil. Kari didn’t own a vehicle and relying on public transportation to get around didn’t seem ideal for cancer treatment. On top of that, she was reluctant to pursue treatment where she lived based on her experience there so far.

With those things in mind, along with guidance from her pen pal doctor, she decided to come back to the United States for treatment.

“It was a big leap of faith. I was just hoping that everything would work out.”

She boarded a plane and arrived in America on May 22, 2020. Two days later, the U.S. government banned incoming travelers from Brazil. Another one of those little blessings.


Now back in the United States, Kari began her treatment journey. It would include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormone therapy.

While researching her treatment options online, she came across another little blessing on YouTube – one she says made a huge difference in guiding her down the right path. This “angel” was a commercial for Provision CARES Proton Therapy.

She had never heard of proton therapy before; but knowing radiation was part of her treatment plan and hearing that an advanced form of radiation was available in her area was very intriguing.

“That was a blessing, because that was the only time I heard about Provision,” Kari says, recalling it was the first and only time she ever saw that commercial.

After looking up Provision’s website and reading about proton therapy, she asked her doctor whether it would be a good option for her. He told her it might be, but suggested she should just do traditional radiation since there was a treatment facility right down the street.

Much like her time in Brazil, when doctors told her one thing, but she felt strongly about another, Kari persisted once again. Despite the first doctor’s opinion, she was going to seek a second opinion and explore proton therapy. After all, she was willing to drive a little further in the short term if it meant a better quality of life long-term.

“I felt in my heart that there was a benefit to proton therapy. I have a lot of life left to live and I wanted something that’s going to give me the least amount of damage to my body.”

Eventually, her self-advocacy paid off and she scheduled a consultation at Provision.


Kari stands outside Provision CARES Proton Therapy after celebrating completion of treatmentFrom the moment she walked through Provision’s doors, she knew proton therapy was the radiation treatment she wanted. Not only was she drawn to the clinical benefits of avoiding unnecessary radiation to healthy tissue, but she was also immediately impressed with Provision’s welcoming, caring atmosphere.

“You know those special moments that just kind of stick with you and they have this special glow around them?” Kari explains. “That was my first experience at the proton center. It’s like this magical moment in my heart.”

She recalls feeling like a “really important person” every time she came to the proton center. So much so, that she was actually excited for each of her treatment sessions.

“I never would’ve thought I’d look forward to cancer treatment, but I just loved being around the people at the proton center. They just made me so happy, and they cared for me so well.”

Kari received proton therapy treatment for just over six weeks, a total of 33 sessions. She says the treatment itself was painless, and she only experienced very mild side effects, such as a sore throat and skin redness, none of which lasted very long.

She credits the medical dosimetry team at Provision with developing a customized treatment plan. “They were able to protect my skin a lot with this plan, and when it did get red, it got better quickly.”


After her final proton therapy treatment, Kari rang Provision’s Victory Bell to mark the end of this phase of her cancer journey. Although, as she explains, it wasn’t so much a “Victory bell” for her, but more of a “Gratitude Bell.”

“I just have so much gratitude for the spectacular treatment I had. It’s an amazing technology and the whole experience was so incredible. So, that day was just about expressing gratitude for the treatment and for everybody who helped along the way.”

Now, she wants to pay that gratitude forward by doing whatever she can to help other cancer patients. Kari says she especially wants to help raise awareness that breast cancer does happen in younger women.

“I want to bring awareness that we need to be advocates for ourselves – know our bodies and look after our bodies. A lot of younger women get diagnosed not through mammograms and screenings, but because they realize on their own that something is wrong with their body.”

She also hopes her story might end up being a little blessing for others. An “angel” that helps them discover proton therapy and understand they have treatment options.

Her advice to anyone with cancer is to always advocate for yourself and choose the treatment you think is best. And if proton therapy is an option, Kari highly recommends checking out Provision CARES Proton Therapy.

“The people at Provision are next level. They are extra caring. They are extra everything. Provision is not an ordinary place, it’s an extraordinary place with extraordinary people.”