When Jonathan was just 33 years old, doctors discovered a large mass surrounding his heart. Being an otherwise healthy young adult, a diagnosis of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma definitely came as a surprise. Thankfully though, his prognosis was good. He had confidence in his treatment plan, a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. As he progressed through treatment, things were going off without a hitch, until one day – a curveball.
“I went in for my consultation for the radiation,” Jonathan remembers. “The doctor told me if I went through traditional radiation, it would likely kill my heart in 10 years.”
That’s when he learned about an advanced form of radiation therapy called proton therapy. His doctor explained why it would be a much better treatment option for him. Considering how close the tumor was to his heart and lungs, proton therapy was the only radiation treatment that could destroy the cancer cells without damaging those vital organs.
Proton therapy uses protons, rather than photons, and allows doctors to precisely target a tumor, avoiding unnecessary radiation to nearby healthy tissue and organs. This lowers the risk of damage to healthy cells. It also reduces the risk of short-term and long-term side effects related to treatment.
In Jonathan’s case, traditional x-ray radiation would’ve gone straight through his chest, exposing everything in its path to radiation from the time the beam entered the body and continuing on beyond the tumor. On the other hand, choosing proton therapy meant doctors could destroy the cancer cells in his chest with pinpoint accuracy, focusing most of the radiation directly on the tumor and stopping it before it reached his heart.
“I was like, ‘Wow, that sounds like a lot better option. So, let’s do protons!’” Jonathan says. “So that was how we began our journey to proton treatment at Provision.”
In February 2019, he made his first trip to Provision CARES Proton Therapy Knoxville for his appointment with Dr. Allen Meek, a board-certified radiation oncologist. Right away, he knew he’d made a great decision.
“You’re already anxious about your prognosis. You’re anxious about what’s going to happen. So, anything that is able to help remove some of that anxiety is definitely a plus. On our first trip down there, we get there, and the facility was magnificent. The campus is landscaped wonderfully and the main lobby waiting room was super inviting.”
From that point on, through 25 proton therapy treatments over five weeks, Jonathan was amazed by the ease of treatment. He says he only experienced one small side effect, some shortness of breath a couple of months after treatment. It was a trade-off he happily accepted considering the alternative had he attempted traditional x-ray radiation.
“Aside from that, I didn’t feel any side effects at all through the whole treatment,” Jonathan says. In fact, a week after he finished proton therapy, he ran a 5k race with his daughter. “I didn’t have chest pains. I didn’t have any pains at all. It was like I was back to my old self.
In addition to how good he felt physically throughout treatment, Jonathan says the love and care he felt from the Provision team made him feel just as good mentally.
“From the moment you walk in the door, I definitely felt like they cared about me as a patient. They remembered your name. They remembered your wife’s name. They remembered whether or not you had kids. Those types of things help you realize they actually do care.”
With a wife and two young children, Jonathan knew he couldn’t put his own future at risk, so he chose proton therapy. Now, he credits the team at Provision CARES Proton Therapy for giving him a shot at a long, healthy life. He says because of proton therapy, he’ll now have the opportunity to grow old with his wife, see his children get married, and maybe even meet his grandchildren someday. Because of proton therapy, he’ll now have the chance to do all the things young fathers dream about.