Monthly Archives

November 2015

A special tribute…

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

This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared in Vibrant Life Magazine.

Patty sits in the waiting room chair, hair still boyish thanks to a recent round of chemo, divorced shortly before her diagnosis, mother of two young boys.

She is telling me about her experience with breast cancer. The surprising news. Juggling work and single motherhood. Her eyes spill, not with tears of sorrow or bitterness but thankfulness.

“I’m very independent, but I’ve had to learn to depend on friends and family. Cancer has helped me allow other people into my life,” she says. “Cancer has shown me the power of prayer. Cancer has taught me how to appreciate every single day.”

I would not have guessed, when I started my new job at a cancer treatment center earlier this year, that it would be such a happy place.

Each day patients, in various stages of illness, come to receive the therapy they hope will save their lives. None of them would choose to be here. And yet, again and again they express their gratitude for the simple gifts life brings.

Bob with esophageal cancer speaks of his daughter-in-law, who faithfully took him to daily appointments. Dennis, a prostate cancer patient visiting the center from out of town, is grateful for the employees who make sure his stay is as comfortable as possible and accommodate needed trips back home. Toni is grateful for the doctors and therapists who made her daughter laugh during treatment for a brain tumor. Melvin is simply glad to have his wife, treated for breast cancer earlier this year, alive and well.

Sharon, who works the front desk, is a stage 3 breast cancer survivor—and has the battle scars of a mastectomy, hysterectomy and radiation damage to her heart and lungs to prove it.

Still, she says, “If I had to choose between having cancer and not having cancer, I wouldn’t change anything. I don’t let the little things bother me. I’m a more caring person. I don’t worry about the future. I appreciate what I have right now.”

“You simply will not be the same person two months from now after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in your life. And you will have set in motion an ancient spiritual law: the more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given you,” writes Sarah Ban Breathnack in her book, Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy.

Indeed. Scientific research shows gratitude, and in particular the repetitive practice of it, improves a sense of well-being, relieves depression and other mental health disorders, improves sleep, lowers blood pressure—all contributors to better physical and mental health.

Thankfulness is linked to spiritual well-being too.

One study showed that gratitude served as a connecting factor between those who were spiritually inclined and also experienced positive impacts on their health. Another study from the Journal of Religion and Health bears the title: “Spirituality and positive psychology go hand in hand…”

At Provision, thankfulness is typically couched in faith. It’s not that patients haven’t done their share of questioning, been through dark days, wondered “why me?” It’s that, somehow, in that journey of their greatest fears they’ve found peace in not having all the answers, in being grateful for the moment, in trusting God with the rest.

As author Ann Voskamp writes, “When I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for God to grow within me.”

 

Breast cancer patient finds support at Provision

By | Breast Cancer, Cancer, East Tennessee, Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center, Patient Experience, Patient Hospitality, Patient Stories, Proton Therapy, Survivors, Uncategorized | No Comments

After 25 years of faithfully submitting to her annual mammogram, Jean Aikens had never gotten the dreaded call, although her sister’s breast cancer diagnosis 20 years before had definitely put the possibility on her radar.

But between one breast cancer screening and the next, a 3 cm tumor had formed, and all of a sudden Aikens found herself facing a biopsy, then surgery and radiation treatment.

Upon first hearing the news, “I had a real meltdown,” she says. “But after I got through that first day, I turned it over to God, and I think I’ve done pretty good at leaving it with Him.”

The 79-year-old survivor was referred to Provision Center for Proton Therapy in lieu of conventional radiation by her surgeon, Dr. George Webber, at the Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center. As an asthma sufferer, she says, the treatment will help spare her lungs from damage caused by conventional radiation, which is much less precise than proton therapy.

She and her husband, Thomas, left their home in Pikeville, Tenn., and rented a small house in Knoxville, where Aikens received four weeks of proton therapy treatment. Her daughter has joined them for much of that  time, and the couple’s two grandsons spent fall break seeking the sights of Knoxville.

“I told my mom, this is not her journey alone,” says Tina Nail.

Faith and family—Tina plus her church family as well as her adopted Provision family—have supported Aikens through her cancer journey, she says. She especially appreciates the care of patient services director Elizabeth Vanzo, social worker Miranda Cantwell and hospitality coordinators Sharon Hall and Amber Elkins.

“I’m very fortunate to get treatment here,” she says. “I feel God’s blessed me and I give Him all the praise for all the blessings He’s given me.”

The Aikens made Knoxville a home away from home during their month-long stay. They got acquainted with a neighbor, who brought food over, took them on a tour of downtown and gave Thomas the job of trimming his hedge when he complained of missing the daily work on his small farm back home—“I can’t stand sitting around,” he says.

They also managed to have some fun along the way. The two women drug Thomas to the outlet malls in Pigeon Forge. And, during a trip to the Knoxville Zoo, Jean rode camel with her grandson.

“The only thing,” she says, “it was too short of a ride.”

This story and other profiles about Provision patients can be found on ProtonStories.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Stick with simple, proven add-ons to a healthy diet

By | Cancer, Casey Coffey, Exercise & Nutrition, Prostate Cancer, Uncategorized | No Comments

There’s nothing like a cancer diagnosis to put a spotlight on personal health, and many people find themselves turning to supplements as a magic cure for their ills.

Be careful, says Provision Health and Performance Center nutritionist Casey Coffey, who has tangled with patients’ long lists of vitamins and natural remedies. One website offers a list of  “20 herbs that can help fight cancer,” while a laundry list of vitamin and mineral supplements promise to deliver good health via capsule and pill.

Coffey’s list of truly beneficial supplements is pretty short. The most important thing is to start with a clean, healthy, nutritionally-complete diet plan, she says—then use supplementation sparingly. She spoke on the subject at a recent patient talk at the Provision Center for Proton Therapy.

“You can’t out-supplement a bad diet,” Coffey told attendees.

However, a few spices and supplements can truly make a difference in overall health. Coffey recommends the following:

• Garlic: A virtual storehouse of vitamins and minerals, garlic helps boost immunity, reduce blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, aid brain function and help detoxify the body

• Ginger: Shown by research to aid in digestion, relieve nausea, reduce pain and inflammation, it also contains a laundry list of vitamins and minerals.

• Hot chili peppers: Can boost metabolism, particularly for those who aren’t accustomed to a spicy diet, alleviate pain and aid in dermatologic conditions. There is also some indication they may help prevent prostate cancer. Read More

13-year-old patient continues cancer fight

By | Cancer, Dr. Matt Ladra, Fundraiser, Patient Stories, Pediatric Cancer, Survivors, Uncategorized | No Comments

For some cancer patients, Provision marks the end of their road in treating their disease. For others, it’s just a stop along the way.

That’s the case for 13-year-old Philip Parks, whose gioblastoma, a quickly reproducing brain cancer, required three surgeries and took him to Germany on the quest for a cure before he landed at Provision for proton therapy.

His battle is by no means over.

Next week Philip, his mom Lydia and his younger brother are getting ready to travel to Israel for another type of therapy the family hopes will halt the tumors that keep regrowing in his brain. His mom describes the treatment on a site set up to raise funds for the treatment and trip.

“There is a very hopeful cancer treatment plan at CTCI Centre in Tel Aviv, Israel, that would be administered by Dr Slavin, an expert in immunotherapy who studied at Stanford and has successfully treated and cured many “incurable” cases with immunotherapy. The plan includes dendritic cell vaccines, injected with placenta and cord tissue derived MSCt, two immuno drugs that have passed phase III trials, and an oncolytic virus that has also passed Phase III trials, as well as oncothermia. Both his neuro-oncologist at (the University of Kentucky) and Dr Slavin at CTCI are communicating together, to come up with the most effective way to fight back at the aggressive nature of Phil’s cancer. This will require at least three weeks in Israel.”

The Parks came to Provision Center for Proton Therapy for treatment he needed to keep the tumors at bay while they explored further options, Lydia says. Philip is a gifted student, and Lydia feared the long-term damage conventional radiation would inflict on his developing brain. Proton therapy provides targeted doses of radiation to the specific disease sites with little exposure to surrounding tissue and organs.

“Radiation does buy time with glioblastoma,” Lydia said. “For me, it’s just the hope that he’s going to live and that he’ll have two-thirds more of his brain that’s not been irradiated.”

You can read more about Philip’s journey at ProtonStories.com, a site devoted to the unique journeys of Provision’s proton therapy patients. He was also recently featured in an article in Southeast Outlook, a Christian magazine. It is a privilege to play a part in the brave, hopeful stories of people like Philip and his family.