Check out the latest news about proton therapy: this week, find out how this state-of-the-art treatment modality is helping patients from all over the world in their fight against cancer.
FIGHTING COLON CANCER WITH LOVE
Tom Halford and Alison Stem’s first years of marriage were tested by Tom’s colon cancer diagnosis, but their journey has only strengthened their love and inspired a community of support from those around them.
During their first years of marriage, Tom was diagnosed with colon cancer that had spread to two of his lymph nodes, the same disease his father had passed away from. “It was a shock to our system, shifting gears from being newlyweds who wanted to start a family to researching cancer centers,” said Tom. “We knew we were going to have to be aggressive in Tom’s treatment. And through my research I learned that proton over regular radiation would give him the greatest chance at beating his cancer, and allow a good quality of life afterwards,” shared Alison. Because younger people are not typically affected by colon cancer, insurance does not currently cover proton therapy for the disease, but Tom’s doctors appealed directly to his insurance company’s medical board to argue for the benefits of proton, particularly in terms of long-term effects of treatment on such a young person. Their initial refusal was overturned and they agreed to pay for proton in full, the first time ever for colon cancer. Now over a year after his diagnosis, Tom and Alison are officially seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Tom has been cancer-free since September 3rd, and with his major surgeries, chemotherapy, and proton treatments behind him, they are now able to finally look ahead and focus on married life and starting a family.
BACK AT SCHOOL AFTER PROTON THERAPY
For Anayed Perez-Araica, a 12-year-old girl from Miami suffering from a brain tumor, the timing could not have been better when Miami Cancer Institute opened its Proton Therapy Center last year.
Anayed has a benign brain tumor called a craniopharyngioma, and while this type of tumor typically does not spread elsewhere in the body, it can be locally aggressive and cause problems if it is not controlled due to its central location in the brain. As proton therapy has the ability to deliver the radiation dose solely to the tumor and spare surrounding healthy tissue, it has the potential to stop Anayed’s tumor from growing, enabling her to grow up and lead a relatively normal life without the side effects of conventional radiation therapy. “At the hospital, doctors told me that Anayed had to go to Jacksonville for the proton treatment,” her mom recalls. The 30 treatments would have required the family to be away from their Miami home for a month. Then they learned about the opening of the Proton Therapy Center at Miami Cancer Institute. “This was joyous news for all of us because she could be with us every day.” Anayed is now back at school, studying technology with the goal of becoming an engineer. Her advice to other kids facing cancer treatment? “I’d tell them not to be afraid,” she says. “I always have a smile on me because I don’t think about it. I just live life, seeing what happens.”
PAROTID CANCER PATIENT CURED BY PT
Phyllis-Ann Walsh, a woman from New York who was diagnosed with parotid cancer earlier this year, is spreading the word about the cancer treatment that got her back on her feet in a matter of months.
Last May, Phyllis-Ann was diagnosed with cancer of the parotid, a salivary gland located in the neck, and was told she would need surgery and radiation therapy as part of her treatment plan. As she had heard about negative side effects of traditional radiation treatment on the neck such as loss of speech, difficulty swallowing and sores in the mouth, she chose to travel to Somerset, New Jersey to the ProCure proton therapy center following surgery in July. After doing some research, Phyllis-Ann had indeed learned that proton therapy was a more targeted form of radiation that does less harm to surrounding healthy tissue. As a result, she says she had more energy following treatment and less need for painkillers. Phyllis-Ann owns a farm where she and her husband raise golden retriever hunting dogs, show horses, and rescue donkeys. She is also a licensed psychotherapist specializing in children with attachment disorder. “When I got home, I was able to pick up my life. I got home on a Saturday and started seeing my clients on Monday. It really interfered very little. And I have a very full life,” she said. Phyllis-Ann had 33 proton treatments between August and October and a recent scan showed her to be cancer free.