Monthly Archives

October 2015

Four days after heart attack, Provision patient guts out cancer race

By | Breast Cancer, Cancer, East Tennessee, Events, Patient Experience, Proton Ambassadors, Proton Therapy, Stories, Survivors, Uncategorized | No Comments

When Tammy Coleman sets her mind to something, she is not to be deterred.

Coleman, who recently completed proton therapy for breast cancer, had signed up for the Komen Race for the Cure this past Saturday. Thus, when she was admitted to the hospital on Tuesday with what the doctor informed her was a heart attack, she gave him very specific instructions.

“I told the ER doctor that he needed to call MY doctors, and I needed to be out of there by Thursday,” says Coleman. “My thoughts were, ‘I got a race to run! I’ve got to get out of here!'”

Her doctor did arrive later that day, ran some tests and saw to it she was out of the hospital Thursday night. And three nurses from her cardiologist’s office were there with Coleman and her son, Rodney—all beaming as they strolled down the 5K course.

At the end of the race, Coleman found one of Provision‘s proton therapy cars in a nearby parking lot, posed for pictures and savored her victory.


It’s not been an easy road for her. Prior to her breast cancer diagnosis, Coleman had two heart attacks and a stroke, and she’s struggled with debilitating high blood pressure. With the breast cancer came a double mastectomy and complete hysterectomy—she tested positive for the BRCA gene, which indicates a high probability of both breast and ovarian cancer—followed by chemotherapy and then radiation, in her case, proton therapy. With her medical history, conventional radiation would have further heightened her risk of more damage to her heart as well as lungs. She emerged from the experience an enthusiastic advocate for breast cancer research and proton therapy. Read more about Coleman and her son’s experience at

Throughout the Race for the Cure course, “we went slow, laughed, talked and danced a little along the way. I felt great.We made it to the end of the race,” says Coleman. “We found the Proton Mobile, and that’s when it hit me. I had come to the end of the journey of my fight against breast cancer.”

Now, it’s time to rest up and take it easy, she says, as she recovers from a string of survivor events, cancer treatment and her recent trip to the hospital.

“I had been so busy trying to participate in every pink event that I was invited to and keep up with everything else life brings,” she says. “For some reason it’s been hard to say no. I am too hyper for my own good sometimes. Slowing down has not been my option. My body said different.”

She doesn’t plan on stopping her advocacy efforts in the future, just pacing herself. And for others facing the cancer battle, she has some advice.

“Cancer doesn’t always have to be the end. Embrace life for what it is. Live every day as if it’s your last day. I was given lumpy lemons and made pink lemonade!”

Fall Provision Proton Post delivers news, healthy tips

By | Breast Cancer, Cancer, Culture of Care, Dr. Allen Meek, Dr. Marcio Fagundes, Exercise & Nutrition, Kentucky, Patient Experience, Patient Hospitality, Proton Therapy, Stories, Tennessee, Uncategorized | No Comments

The latest edition of Provision’s quarterly newsletter comes packed with news about our patients, treatment options and advice from Provision’s nutritionist on how to keep it healthy in the upcoming holiday season.

In honor of breast cancer month, we profile Mary Bagley, a Stage 3 breast cancer patient who was successfully treated at Provision—and through it all was able to carry on her busy lifestyle! And learn about a new group, the Proton Gals, formed to support women cancer survivors who have gone through or completed proton therapy We talk to Dr. Marcio Fagundes about the new hydrogel product that’s sparing prostate cancer patients the daily “balloon” encounter and protecting them from unwanted effects of radiation on sensitive organs. Get to know the smiling face and caring person of Kristin Coffield, Provision manager of patient services, and how she came to leave a career in five-star hospitality to care for cancer patients. Learn how Dr. Allen Meek came to start a farm but ended up helping start a proton cente. And read about all of the Kentucky patients who’ve became fans of, and advocates for, Provision Center for Proton Therapy.

Staying healthy is an important part of successful cancer treatment and cancer prevention, and in this issue we look toward the upcoming holidays. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s are always a challenging time to keep up an exercise routine and keep away from extra calories. That can be especially true for patients who are away from home. In this issue, Nutritionist Casey Coffey, talks about multiple ways to address the unhealthy temptations of the holiday season—as well as how to combat the extra stress the season can deliver. Below are some more suggestions for ingredient substitutions as well as simple, delicious recipes (some you can even prepare at your ‘home away from home’!)

Happy reading!


Individual Protein Cheesecake

6oz Chobani plain 0% Greek Yogurt
1/2 Tbsp Jell-O sugar-free instant pudding mix – cheesecake

1/2 cup fiber bran cereal
4 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp unsalted almond butter
1/4 tsp stevia
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg

Add the cheesecake flavored pudding mix into the yogurt and stir until well combined. Set yogurt mixture aside. In a food processor or blender, grind the bran to a fine texture. In a small mixing bowl, add the ground bran with all dry ingredients, (stevia, cinnamon, and  nutmeg) and mix evenly. Then add the almond butter and water and stir until it becomes moist and sticky. If the batter is still crumbly, add additional water in 1 tsp increments until desired consistency is achieved. Pour the crust mixture into a small 4in circular pan. Pack the crust along the bottom and sides of the dish to create a pie shape. Pour the filling on top of the crust and smooth evenly along the top. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes and enjoy cold.


Apple Pie Parfait

1 small fuji apple
6 oz Chobani 0% Honey Greek Yogurt
1/2 cup cooked chilled quinoa
2 Tbsp walnuts
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Cook quinoa to package instructions and refrigerate beforehand. Chop the apple into small chunks. Place apple chunks in a microwave safe bowl, and sprinkle with cinnamon. Cover with saran wrap and microwave for 1-1.5 minutes until apple becomes soft. Stir and set aside. In a glass jar, layer half of the yogurt along the bottom, followed by half of the quinoa, walnuts, and apple mixture. Repeat layers to create a parfait and store in the refrigerator or enjoy warm.

Keep reading to find more recipes, plus healthy ingredient substitutions!

Read More

Provision medical director speaks at ASTRO on benefits of SpaceOAR gel product

By | News | No Comments

Knoxville, TN (Oct. 19, 2015)—ASTRO Booth #250—Marcio Fagundes, M.D., medical director of Provision Center for Proton Therapy, will speak today in San Antonio, Texas, at the 57th annual meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) on the results of using a product that helps protect prostate cancer patients from radiation exposure.

Six months after being the first proton therapy center to use SpaceOAR, more than 100 Provision patients have received the spacer, which fills the gap between the prostate and rectal wall, protecting the rectum from any minimal radiation exposure that may be incurred during treatment.

The injection replaces the familiar balloon once inserted into the rectum of men before being treated for prostate cancer. The one-time gel injection prevents irritation and injury that can occur with the daily balloon placement in addition to preventing longer-term impacts of treatment such as prostatitis. Following treatment, the gel simply is absorbed into the body and discharged in the patient’s urine.

Manufactured by Augmenix, Inc., SpaceOAR is the first product in the United States FDA-approved to protect the rectum in men undergoing prostate cancer radiotherapy. Provision Center for Proton Therapy began using SpaceOAR just a week after FDA approval. Provision now serves as a training center where the product manufacturer, Augmenix, brings physicians from other centers to learn the injection technique.

“We were the first center, and I was the first physician to be certified to use SpaceOAR in external beam therapy, once the product was released by the FDA” said Fagundes, a board certified radiation oncologist. “We were a pioneer in introducing this and it has proven to be highly effective for our patients.”

Seventy-year-old Frank Potts from Columbia, SC, the 100th patient to receive the spacer, said he was pleased Provision is using the hydrogel in lieu of the daily balloon procedure.

“I’m really, really pleased with the spacer,” Potts said. “I’ve had no discomfort, no problems. And to the extent that it’s a medical improvement over the balloon, I can’t imagine not doing it.”

About Provision Center for Proton Therapy

Provision Center for Proton Therapy is the first cancer treatment center of its kind in Tennessee and only the third in the Southeastern United States.  Open to all credentialed physicians and health systems in the region, the Provision Center for Proton Therapy has three treatment rooms and is able to treat up to 900 cancer patients annually. The center utilizes intensity modulated pencil beam scanning, the most accurate proton beam therapy in the world. This advanced cancer treatment capability is available in only a handful of cities. Provision Center for Proton Therapy is one of only 17 proton therapy centers in the nation and 50 in the world.

Provision and RaySearch partner on RayStation proton therapy training

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Provision and RaySearch partner on RayStation proton therapy training

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (Oct. 18, 2015)—ASTRO Booth #250—Provision Healthcare is partnering with leading treatment planning software developer, RaySearch Laboratories AB, to offer new user education at the Provison Center for Proton Therapy’s state-of-the-art treatment and training facilities.

Provision was the first proton therapy center to adopt the company’s system, called RayStation, and has worked collaboratively with RaySearch since the launch of the Provision Center for Proton Therapy in January 2014.

“Over the past nearly two years, we have put RayStation through its paces, and we are pleased with the results. The physicists and medical dosimetrists who come for training will have a chance to learn from our clinical staff and see RayStation in action at a working medical center,” said Niek Schreuder, chief medical physicist for Provision Center for Proton Therapy. “Our world-class proton therapy facility plus a modern, fully-equipped training center will provide both classroom and hands-on instruction for the staff who will be working with patients and physicians in treatment planning.”

Trainers from Provision and RaySearch will conduct five-day training sessions, starting in January 2016, in both basic and advanced proton therapy planning.

“Although RaySearch provides planning training for our customers in our training center in New York, having a clinical site that can provide the entire spectrum of knowledge and experience is very valuable – especially a site like Provision that has been so successful in their implementation,” said Marc Mlyn, President of RaySearch Americas, the American subsidiary of RaySearch Laboratories AB.  “We are pleased to partner with the Knoxville team to offer such a high level of training.”

Because proton therapy is applied so precisely to a tumor, careful planning is essential to ensure the protons hit their target and to minimize damage of non-cancerous surrounding tissue. RayStation allows for detailed planning, while accounting for potential changes and needed adjustments over the weeks a patient undergoes treatment. Provision has experience in treating a range of tumor types and disease sites and will provide instruction in patient data management, patient modeling, planning and optimization, automated planning techniques and adaptive planning.

About Provision Healthcare
Provision Healthcare is a comprehensive healthcare group in the United States integrating clinical services, R&D, manufacturing, investment and a charitable foundation.  With an emphasis in cancer, Provision Healthcare is committed to providing cutting edge treatment, early detection and personalized care for cancer patients around the world.

About Provision Center for Proton Therapy
Provision Center for Proton Therapy is the first cancer treatment center of its kind in Tennessee and only the third in the Southeastern United States.  Open to all credentialed physicians and health systems in the region, the Provision Center for Proton Therapy has three treatment rooms and is able to treat up to 900 cancer patients annually. The center utilizes intensity modulated pencil beam scanning, the most accurate proton beam therapy in the world. This advanced cancer treatment capability is available in only a handful of cities. Provision Center for Proton Therapy is one of only 17 proton therapy centers in the nation and 50 in the world.

About RaySearch

RaySearch Laboratories AB (publ) is a medical technology company that develops advanced software solutions for improved radiation therapy of cancer. RaySearch markets the RayStation® treatment planning system to clinics all over the world. In addition, RaySearch’s products are distributed through licensing agreements with leading medical technology companies. RaySearch’s software solutions are used by over 2,500 clinics in more than 65 countries. RaySearch was founded in 2000 as a spin-off from Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm and the company is listed in the Small Cap segment on NASDAQ OMX Stockholm.

Not about dying but living—new film shows benefits of patient-centric care

By | Cancer, Culture of Care, Dr. Tamara Vern-Gross, Patient Experience, Patient Hospitality, Pediatric Cancer, Uncategorized | No Comments

Matteo bursts onto the screen, full of life, language and an infectious sense of humor—a personality that overshadows the tracheostomy tube emerging from his neck.

Matteo suffers from Ondine’s syndrome, also known as congenital central hypoventilation syndrome. The rare condition results from an absence of the autonomic impulse to breathe, requiring the individual to require respiratory support equipment during sleep. It can also result in long-term health concerns related to oxygen deprivation such as pulmonary hypertension and heart failure.

But for Matteo, although his long-term future is uncertain, his disease is simply the context of an otherwise normal, happy life. That’s because his family and healthcare providers form a team that not only attend to Matteo’s extensive medical needs but also his quality of life.

This practice of medicine is known as palliative care, and is the subject of a new documentary called “Little Stars: Accomplishing the Extraordinary in the Face of Serious Illness.” Along with Matteo, the film features children from around the world who, in the face of life threatening or life ending illness, have a team of healthcare providers as focused on life’s quality as its quantity.

Many people may be more familiar with palliative care in the context of helping manage the dying process, says Tamara Vern-Gross, radiation oncologist at Provision Center for Proton Therapy and a palliative care specialist. This week she hosted a special viewing of the movie for Provision staff and area health care providers.

“There is often a misconception that palliative care means ‘giving up’ or is strictly limited to end-of-life care,” she says. “In general, palliative is designed to find meaning and help families and patients learn how to live better when faced with a life-limiting or life-threatening illness—whether a patient may live weeks or months or years. It is about finding the cure but also to identify the other things that are important when dealing with a life-altering illness.”

Those needs range from sorting through a myriad of treatment options to financial concerns to family relationships to pain management and addressing a range of emotional, psychological and spiritual needs. And in the case of children, it becomes more complicated as parents try to navigate through the demands of school, work, sibling needs and their own grief. Read More

Couple takes cancer journey together

By | Cancer, colon cancer, Culture of Care, Patient Experience, Patient Hospitality, Prostate Cancer, Proton Therapy, Stories, Survivors, Uncategorized | No Comments

Read this and other Provision patient stories at

Glen and Doris Hall have gone through a lot together in their marriage of 66 years.

They went to school together, had three children together and then grandchildren, together experienced a career in academics. Now, they can add cancer to the list.

Both received proton therapy in treatment periods that overlapped each other—he for prostate cancer, she for colon cancer.

It’s not the kind of sharing either would have chosen. But, says Doris, “it draws you closer together.”

Sweethearts at Berea College in Kentucky—Doris a sociology major, Glen finally settling on agriculture—the two married while still in school with special permission from the president.

“His first question was, ‘How are you going to support a wife?’” says Glen. He then gave his consent—and his new wife a job in the administrative office.

The couple went on to the University of Kentucky and then Iowa State University, where Glen earned his PhD and their first daughter was born in Ames. He was hired by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in 1955. Later, he headed the Department of Agriculture at the University of Tennessee, Martin, and set-up a branch of the Agriculture Experiment State there. He returned to UT Knoxville in 1967 as Dean of the College of Agriculture—at age 38 the youngest dean. He also served as interim Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs in 1992-1993—the second highest administrative position at UTK. He retired in 1995 after 40 years with the university.

While at UT, Glen worked to create a caring, welcoming atmosphere for faculty and students. He also reached across oceans, working in India to set up a land grant university concept, even meeting twice with Indira Ghandi, whom he describes as “down to earth.” While he worked in administration, Doris raised their two daughters and one son—one of the three have also gone into agriculture; served as president of the UT Faculty Women’s Club; taught Sunday school at Church Street United Methodist Church and volunteered with the Girl Scouts and at UT Hospital.

These days, life is a bit quieter but still hectic, scheduled around Doris’s dialysis and visits from their children. The two recently celebrated their 88th and 86th birthdays together with a dinner of “quiche, coconut cake and good wine” provided by their daughter. Read More

Tennessee legislator leads charge to change laws for coverage

By | Insurance Coverage, Patient Rights, Stories, Tennessee, Uncategorized | No Comments

Tennessee Senator Doug Overbey first learned about proton therapy several years ago when a church member had to travel out of state to receive the cancer treatment—and then mortgage her house to pay for it.

Today, Tennesseans can receive proton therapy closer to home, thanks to the Provision Center for Proton Therapy in Knoxville. But, unfortunately, some are still faced with paying for it themselves or going without.

For the past two years, Overbey has been fighting this inequity in the Tennessee General Assembly, and he’s not stopping now.

In a television interview with WATE “On Your Side” reporter Halley Holloway, Overbey pledged to continue fighting for insurance coverage that often eludes patients between ages 18 and 65 who are diagnosed with cancer. The interview was posted on the news station’s website along with a story about Tennessee breast cancer patient Lou Lovingood, whose Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance carrier had denied her claim for proton therapy treatment three times. Lovingood received treatment at Provision, where she was the center’s 500th patient.

Proton therapy has been used for treatment of cancer since the 1950s and approved for coverage by Medicare as well as by most insurers for pediatric cases since the early 1990s, when the modality became available at mainstream healthcare facilities. Overbey has supported two bills in the state legislature that would pave the way for private insurance to cover proton therapy for everyone—measures strongly opposed by insurance companies, particularly Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee. Read More

Female support group launched for proton therapy patients

By | Breast Cancer, Cancer, Culture of Care, Events, Insurance Coverage, Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center, Patient Experience, Proton Therapy, Stories, Survivors, Uncategorized | No Comments

Women who go through proton therapy for cancer have a set of unique needs, and now there’s a group to help address them.

Introducing, the Proton Gals, a support and advocacy group for women who have had or are undergoing proton therapy treatment. With the slogan “Supporting proton therapy and each other,” the group will provide a variety of programs and resources for current and former Provision patients.

The first meeting will be held at 5 p.m., Nov. 16 at the Provision Learning and Innovation Center. For more information or to RSVP, call Sharon Bishop Hall at 865-862-1625—or talk to her at the front desk at Provision Center for Proton Theray, where she serves as a hospitality coordinator. The group has a website and Facebook page devoted to exchanging stories and relevant information to proton therapy patients and cancer survivors.

“We want a venue for women to talk about what they’re going through,” says Hall.

Hall launched and coordinates the Proton Gals group, modeled after a similar program called Proton Guys, which brings together men who’ve gone through proton therapy as an informal support group and promoters of the treatment in the community. Since opening in January, 2014, Provision has treated 184 female patients for cancers ranging from breast to lung to Hodgkin lymphoma.

As a survivor of stage 3 breast cancer, Hall has had extensive experience in the cancer support community including involvement with local cancer support groups and one-on-one connection with cancer patients as a mastectomy fitter at Thompson Cancer Survival Center, the University of Tennessee Medical Center and Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center. She also is a member of the steering committee for the American Cancer Society’s “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” initiative and is a member of the Young Survival Coalition.

“You can talk to family, but it’s difficult for them to understand since they’re not in your shoes,” she says. “And, because the experience of cancer patients who have proton therapy is unique from those who have other forms of treatment, I thought it was important to create a forum especially for this group of survivors.”

Proton Gals will have quarterly meetings that will feature guest speakers, opportunity for one-on-one interaction, health and wellness information and an online community to allow members to stay connected and share their experiences. The group also will take on an advocacy role, helping promote improved access and insurance coverage for this more precise, less damaging alternative to conventional radiation therapy.

The group is designed to be a safe place for women receiving treatment at the proton therapy center that will continue to support and assist them after treatment is complete.

“There are side effects and after effects from cancer and the things your body has gone through as well as simply readjusting to ‘normal’ life, “ Hall says. “Just because you’re out of treatment doesn’t mean it’s all over.”