Cancer is LIFE changing but it’s NOT life defining
My name is Jeff Murray, and I was diagnosed with prostate cancer at 45 years old.
In early 2010, I scheduled my annual routine physical. My wife and I had just booked our first cruise vacation and I was tying up loose ends before we left in early May. Before leaving on our great adventure, I got a call from my doctor who said he was referring me to a urologist to evaluate what he thought was an unusually high PSA level for someone of my age at 45.
Having no history of cancer in my family, I was not overly concerned about getting a biopsy before our trip. It was a routine outpatient procedure and a couple of days later, we were on a plane to California. I returned home to Oklahoma City to an answering machine that was full of messages regarding a follow up appointment with my urologist.
As I walked into my urologist’s office, I had a sinking feeling that something was wrong. He quickly and abruptly let me know that I had prostate cancer.
I don’t remember much of the conversation after that point. I was given some literature from a nurse and the reality started to sit in. My life changed in a moment. I had a 7-year-old daughter and a beautiful wife at home. I was going to fight like hell to get the best treatment available.
After consulting with my urologist, I knew I had to become my own advocate and ask the right questions to get the treatment I wanted.
Not interested in my urologist’s original treatment ideas, I asked several people within my circle of friends and church family questions. I had a follow up for a 2nd opinion and I knew there had to be some type of treatment that would bring positive results for my diagnosis.
As luck would have it, a friend from church recommended that I get a consultation at Oklahoma Proton Center. The rest is history. Driving by the facility on the way to church every Sunday morning in 2008-09, I never imagined that the big hole in the ground would become the building that helped save my life.
Walking into the Proton Center in the summer of 2010, I had no idea or understanding of proton therapy. I was anxious, scared and didn’t know where the future would take me. I walked in and immediately felt a sense of peace. Dr. Keole patiently and effectively answered all my questions. His calming demeanor made me feel extremely comfortable about any future treatment plans.
He also explained how proton therapy worked – that with protons more radiation hits the cancer and less hits healthy tissue than with other types of radiation treatment. This would reduce the risk of side effects and lead to a higher long term survival rate according to multiple clinical studies.
I began my 44 treatments on the Monday after Thanksgiving. I was able to navigate through the uncertainty that I faced in 2010 with the help of my family, friends and coworkers who stepped up to help me succeed.
When I finished treatment on January 11, 2011, I became patient graduate and coin holder #290. Now there are over 4,000 graduates of Oklahoma Proton Center!
The quality of professional treatment I received was exemplary. The staff at the front desk, radiation therapists and all the people behind the scenes truly made me feel like a rock star.
I made friendships 12 years ago that I still cherish today. I would often go back to the Proton Center and sit with new patients in the lobby to help them understand their journey and what to expect.
I even got out of my comfort zone and spoke to a group of state legislators about the importance of insurance coverage for proton therapy. I never thought I would be a lobbyist (LOL)!
In 2018, I was approached by a group of ladies at the center who were interested in starting a non-profit foundation to help existing proton therapy patients navigate their way through the treatment process. During those initial conversations, I knew I wanted to help in any way possible.
We put together a Board of Directors that included a couple of former patients and local community leaders. The paperwork was officially filed in 2018 to create the Proton Pals Foundation. Within an initial $25,000 donation, the Foundation has worked the past 4 years to offer gas cards and hotels stays for those patients who might need financial assistance. We also offer access to mental health professionals and meal money for those that qualify. I am proud to have initially served as the 1st Board Chairman and now currently as the Executive Director for our growing foundation.
Walking into the building as a patient in November 2010 and now 12 years later helping those patients who walk through the doors after me has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
For more information on Proton Pals Foundation, or to consider supporting this foundation, please visit: www.protonpalsfoundation.com