Monthly Archives

July 2015

Ultramarathoner sets goal for cancer cause

By | Cancer, Fundraiser, Proton Therapy, Scott Hamilton, Uncategorized | No Comments

For Ron Moore, becoming an ultra-marathoner happened over the years as he evolved from short-distance venues to longer —and much longer—races.

Moore, senior physicist in ProNova Solutions’ research and development division, ran his first marathon in 2005. He didn’t finish, thanks to an injured calf, but was back at it the following year, completing the Chicago Marathon in 2006. He transitioned to trail running, completing his first 50K in 2010 and upping the ante from there. He finished a 70-mile race earlier this year.

“I ran track and cross country through high school and college, and as I started losing speed, I just ran farther,” he says.

Moore is training now for his first 100-mile race, the Pinhoti 100 set in Alabama’s Talladega National Forest. But this time he’s not just running for his own accomplishment. He will be raising money for the Scott Hamilton CARES Foundation, a Provision partner non-profit founded by the noted Olympic ice skater and cancer survivor. The foundation funds world class research and quality care with the goal of improving cancer survivorship.

The reason is personal: A few years ago Moore’s wife, Patty, was diagnosed with renal clear cell carcinoma, a type of kidney cancer.

Doctors discovered the tumor during a routine MRI, part of a regular screening because of her high risk for breast cancer, which runs in her family, Moore says. The cancer is found most often in men ages 50-70. She was in her 30s.

“The doctor said, ‘This is an old, white guy’s cancer,’” he says. “It was pretty hard because it was so shocking.”

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Garden fresh recipes for healthy eating!

By | Exercise & Nutrition, Knoxville, Patient Experience, Tennessee, Uncategorized | No Comments

If you’re staying in Knoxville awhile, be sure to check out our local farmers markets for treats galore! Here are a few, simple recipes to tempt your palate.

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Herbs and Capers

  • Yield: 6 servings (serving size: about 1 1/4 cups tomato mixture and 1 bread slice)


  • 2 cups assorted heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extravirgin olive oil
  • 2 pounds assorted beefsteak heirloom tomatoes, each cut into 6 wedges
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 (1/2-ounce) slices sourdough bread, toasted or grilled


1. Combine first 9 ingredients in a bowl. Sprinkle tomato mixture with salt and pepper; toss gently. Serve with bread.

Source: Cooking Light

Up next: Peppery Grilled Okra and Watermelon Slices with Mint and Lime

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Wholistic care for cancer patients

By | Culture of Care, Exercise & Nutrition, Patient Experience, Uncategorized | No Comments

Note: This feature article will be published in an upcoming issue of the magazine Corporate Wellness.

When Sandy Tracy was diagnosed with kidney cancer last year, the last people she felt like talking to about it were her co-workers.

“I don’t like people feeling sorry for me,” she says. “I just wanted to go back to everything being ok. I just wanted to go on with life.”

And yet, managing the stress of a life-threatening disease in the place where she spent most of her waking hours was difficult.

“Sometimes I just needed somebody to talk to,” she says.

Supporting employees diagnosed with cancer involves much more than treating a disease. Cancer affects family, finances, faith and myriad other facets of life as individuals struggle to cope with a new reality. Creating a wholistic plan to address psychological, spiritual and wellness needs can create a positive environment in which people can fight their cancer, ultimately improving both their personal health outcome and their contribution once they return to normal life.

“Life threatening disease affects the productivity of workers, and cancer tops the list,” says Brenna Shebel, vice president of the National Business Group on Health. The NBGH is a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit group focused on health-related interests of large employers.

According to NBGH, although less than 1 percent of those covered by commercial health insurance are diagnosed with cancer, claims account for 10 percent of all medical costs, and overall spending on cancer care grew by $63 billion between 1990 and 2008. In 2009, and companies lost $33.6 billion in productivity for full-time employees serving as caregivers to cancer patients, and cancer is the leading cause in long-term disability.

As a result, it’s crucial for companies to create thoughtful, comprehensive benefit packages addressing the varied needs of cancer patients, both to a company’s culture and its bottom line, Shebel says.

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New research shows jump in surveillance but not many active

By | Prostate Cancer, Screening, Uncategorized | No Comments

For some men whose prostate cancer screening tests return positive, it’s advisable to simply watch and wait to see what the cancer will do.

This approach of closely monitoring so-called “low grade” cancer cases has grown in scientific merit, with research indicating that low-risk cancer does not inherently become high-risk cancer that could shorten a man’s life. One in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Between 1990 and 2009, 7-14 percent of men opted for surveillance over treatment. That number jumped to 40 percent between 2010 and 2013—and 76 percent of men 75 or older chose this option.

But the report, published in the journal, JAMA Internal Medicine, also showed that most men on the “watch and wait” list aren’t doing much watching.

Between 6.5 and 12 percent of those who participated in a study of nearly 190,000 men with prostate cancer participated in proactive surveillance of their disease.

The most telling indicator of whether prostate cancer is high risk is the Gleason score, which is determined through a test of tissue following a biopsy.

Monitoring prostate cancer versus treating it directly falls into two categories, according to the American Cancer Society. “Active surveillance” includes regular PSA testing, digital rectal exams and ultrasounds to determine of the cancer is growing. “Watchful waiting,” while similar in terms of testing, is typically less intensive and invasive.

Although doctors don’t always take the same approach to this strategy of addressing prostate cancer—or have the same opinion about watchful waiting or surveillance—it is important for patients to remain proactive in participating in follow-up appointments and taking an active role in their care, in case the cancer does begin to spread.



New website focuses on survivor experience

By | Breast Cancer, Cancer, Patient Experience, Pediatric Cancer, Prostate Cancer, Proton Therapy, Stories, Survivors, Uncategorized | No Comments

Cancer may change your life. It shouldn’t define it.

On any given day, the lobby at Provision Proton Therapy Center is full of patients awaiting their turns in the treatment room.

Young and old. Homemakers. Students. Business owners. Musicians. Factory workers. Teachers. Pilots. Engineers. Doctors. From all over the country. All over the world.

Cancer, the great equalizer.

But at Provision, we don’t celebrate cancer. We celebrate life.

Meet Emma, whose journey brought her from China to a new family in Kentucky. Meet Patty, a make-up artist who frequents local TV sets and is on a first-name basis with Peyton Manning. Meet Mary, whose proton therapy treatment allowed her to easily resume her active life as an antique finisher and volunteer. Meet James, who claims martial arts, the military and music in equal measure. Meet Ryan, who’s bravely fighting a brain tumor with quiet grace and humor. Meet Walt, who faced cancer like any other adventure in life—from flying helicopters to ice hockey to road biking.

Not cases. Not charts. Not charge numbers. What we treat at Provision are people. tells their stories. Check it out today—and there’s much more to come.


Provision’s proton center treats 500th patient

By | News | No Comments

When Lou Lovingood, a 63-year-old grandmother from Sweetwater, was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year, she didn’t shed a tear.

Those came, she said, after receiving the first letter from her insurance company denying coverage for proton therapy, a type of radiation treatment that targets a specific location while minimizing damage to surrounding tissue and organs.

“It was the first time I had cried after all of this, after I got my first denial,” said Lovingood, who has now been denied twice and is appealing to her insurer again.

Lovington had lumpectomies in both breasts after her diagnosis, and completed her 33rd and final proton treatment Thursday at the Provision Center for Proton Therapy. She was the center’s 500th patient, and used the spotlight during a special celebration to share her insurance story.

“My diagnosis today could be yours tomorrow,” she said. “We want the best level of care for everybody. If there is something better that’s out there, we should have the right to it. We have to stand up and use our voice to say, ‘You can’t treat us this way.'”

Lovingood, co-owner of Sweetwater Insurance Agency, used savings put up for retirement to pay for the treatment. Others, she said, may not be so fortunate.

For the past two years, Provision has unsuccessfully prodded the state Legislature to get involved in getting proton therapy covered. The most recent bill called for proton to be covered by insurers at the same levels it covers other radiation therapies.

Insurers have argued that the more-expensive treatment isn’t cost effective and is not necessarily better than traditional radiation therapies.

Provision opened in January 2014 and is treating about 80 patients a day with proton therapy. More than 44 different cancers in various locations have been treated.

It also now has pencil beam scanning in all three of its treatment rooms, giving physicians more-precise capability, said Bill Hansen, vice president of business and strategic development at Provision Health Partners.

Looking ahead, Provision plans to continue to expand into different disease sites and offer more trials with some other newer treatment techniques.

Lovingood, for example, is the first person the center has treated for bilateral breast cancer.

“We’re trying to treat as much cancer as we can as noninvasive as possible,” Hansen said. “More time and energy is going to be spent in early detection, free screenings and finding programs that can match up.”


Provision’s 500th patient takes up insurance cause

By | Breast Cancer, Cancer, Dr. Tamara Vern-Gross, East Tennessee, Events, Insurance Coverage, Uncategorized | No Comments

For any cancer patient, the automatic question to a diagnosis is: Why me?

Lou Lovingood may not have the answer, but she’s determined to make the most of an opportunity, which is how she’s come to view her experience with breast cancer.

She is the 500th patient to graduate from treatment at the Provision Center for Proton Therapy.

The announcement was greeted Thursday with balloons, a gaggle of Lovingood’s family and friends, local media coverage and Provision employees dressed in pink.

“Six months ago, I had no idea there was another graduation in my future,” Lovingood told the gathering. “This was not my plan, not my idea and certainly not my choice, but in the midst of the storm we have certainly felt God’s presence and are grateful.”

Lovingood was diagnosed in February with bilateral breast cancer at the Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center where a mammogram found a 2 millimeter lump in her left breast and a subsequent needle biopsy discovered another 6 millimeter lump in her right breast. She had a lumpectomy in March and was advised by her surgeon to consider proton therapy because of the exposure conventional radiation would give to her heart and lungs. Studies have shown that women successfully treated for breast cancer with conventional radiation therapy are at significantly higher risk for heart disease and secondary lung cancer years.

When she walked into the Provision Center for Proton Therapy for her initial consultation, “I was scared,” she said.

It was hospitality coordinator Sharon Bishop, herself a breast cancer survivor, who reassured her.

“She looked at me and said, “You’re going to be okay,” Lovingood said. “My husband says she’s director of first impressions. She really touched my heart.”

Bishop, who herself has suffered heart damage from conventional radiation treatment, also was the one who convinced Lovingood to treat her cancer with protons.

“She said, ‘I would have paid any amount of money if I had had the option of proton therapy,’” Lovingood said.

For the Lovingoods, it was a big choice to make. Lou’s insurance provider, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee has denied coverage of the treatment—twice. Provision physician, Dr. Tamara Vern-Gross, is appealing a third time. In the meantime, the family decided to commit to paying for the treatment themselves if necessary. Lovingood is the first Provision patient to receive proton therapy for bilateral breast cancer.

“We made a family decision that was what we were going to do no matter what,” she said.

Lou Lovingood stands in front of Provision's graduation bell with family and friends.

Lou Lovingood stands in front of Provision’s graduation bell with family and friends.

Provision Healthcare opened the proton therapy center in January, 2014, and since then has offered treatment to patients suffering from a variety of cancers including head and neck, lung, esophageal, prostate, brain, bladder, sarcoma, tongue, lymph and colon as well as pediatric cancers. The center, which has three treatment rooms, currently serves about 80 patients per month. Patients travel to Provision from across the country and around the world, including England, the Netherlands, Taiwan, Mexico and Brazil.

Lovingood’s experience with the insurance company, and her conviction about the benefits of proton therapy, have led her to see the opportunity in her breast cancer battle—urging insurance coverage of proton therapy.

“It makes me absolutely furious. It’s wrong for insurance companies not to provide the best possible care,” she said. “What I have learned is proton therapy is better, and it’s worth paying for.”


WBIR Chief Meterologist Todd Howell pays a surprise visit to 500th patient, Lou Lovingood.

Sarcoma rare but responsive to proton therapy

By | Cancer, Clinical Care, Culture of Care, Dr. Tamara Vern-Gross, Innovation, Patient Experience, Patient Hospitality, Sarcoma, Screening, Stories, Uncategorized | No Comments

Sarcoma represents just 1 percent of cancer cases. Bob Sisson is among the 1 percent.

“There isn’t a buddy check for sarcoma,” he says. “I don’t know how you give yourself any self-exams. It’s just bad luck.”

A cancer of the body’s connective tissue, there are approximately 14,000 cases of sarcoma diagnosed each year in the United States and represent approximately 15 percent of cancer found in children, according to the Sarcoma Alliance. About 11,300 of those cases soft tissue sarcoma, which can be found in muscles, fat, blood vessels, tendons and other tissues. Just 2,890 cases are bone sarcomas. Sisson was diagnosed with a soft tissue sarcoma known as spindle cell last October.


“I started feeling a lump on my left hip—the left hip started getting a little larger than the right hip,” he says. That was last summer. By fall, he started to feel pain in his hip bone, and he visited his primary care physician who ordered a CT scan. There was a large tumor that had already metastasized into Sisson’s lungs.

“Maybe if I’d gone in 3 months sooner…,” he wonders.

Because the tumor was so close to key organs including the bowel and kidneys, he was not a candidate for surgery. He started chemotherapy at the recommendation of his oncologist in hopes of shrinking the tumors. But Sisson had also noticed the Provision ads on television featuring ice skating champion Scott Hamilton. He did some research about proton therapy and made a “cold call” to the Knoxville treatment center.

“I thought the proton therapy sounded good for me,” he says. “I have a background in nuclear engineering, so I’m not unfamiliar with the (concept)…. I talked to my doctor, and he said he didn’t think it would be a bad route.”

Sisson and his wife spent three hours at the initial consultation, talking with Dr. Tamara Vern-Gross and her nurse Julie Goodfellow.

“They brought in a lot of their staff people to meet with us and talk with us,” he says. “It was so great to be able to have that interaction, that they would take the time to sit there and talk to you about this.”

Because protons deposit their energy at a specific target, there is less collateral damage to surrounding, healthy tissues and organs, making it a good treatment for many cancers, including sarcoma. Vern-Gross also advised on a shorter regimen of traditional radiation therapy, completed at Provision Radiation Therapy, for the smaller tumors in Sisson’s lungs.

The tumor on Sisson’s hip responded well to the treatment, drastically reducing the size of the sarcoma. He continues chemotherapy treatment for the lung nodules.

“The facility was just first-class. Just walking into the facility you think you’re in a clubhouse. It gives you a healthy perspective, a positive perspective,” Sisson says. “I would give (Provision) the highest marks on care. I would give it the highest marks on medical (expertise) because it’s state of the art. Dr. Tamara is great, absolutely fantastic. The world is a better place to have people like her.”

As for his cancer, Sisson says he has continued to stay active—caring for his wife who suffered from a stroke four years ago, driving himself to chemotherapy, keeping up the house and yard. While he knows the odds for beating stage 4 cancer aren’t in his favor, and although his Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance would not pay for the proton therapy treatments, he does not regret the investment.

“It resolved the issue that it was supposed to,” he says, referring to the tumor on his hip. “It’s your life you’re talking about.”