“I didn’t choose cancer, it chose me. My plan was to fight with everything I had. That started with the very best treatment available.”
-Jim Tincher: Brain Cancer Survivor
When we look back on 2020, we see one of the most rewarding and successful years in Oklahoma Proton Center history. We see a year where we had the privilege to provide world-class cancer care to hundreds of patients, even while having to adapt to the world of healthcare amid a pandemic.
Overall, we treated 420 unique patients and delivered 11,202 daily treatments. Making 2020 one of the busiest years in the proton center’s history.
We had the privilege to offer care to patients down the street and patients fifteen hundred miles away in Salem, Oregon. In fact, we had patients come from 15 different states to Oklahoma Proton Center for treatment in 2020. Within Oklahoma, we treated patients residing in 93 different cities.
Oklahoma Proton Center is in its 12th year of operations, and as time has passed, we have developed protocols to treat more and more disease sites. In 2020 alone, we treated patients with 90 different unique cancer diagnoses for patients as young as 22 years of age and as old as 93 years of age and for almost every age in between.
Each of these patients has a unique story of which we were fortunate to be a small part.
On behalf of Oklahoma Proton Center’s leadership, we want to thank all of the patients who put their trust in us to provide care for such a complex and critical disease. You are the reason we are here and why we do what we do.
We also want to thank our staff who persevered through challenging circumstances and were able to adapt on the fly while continuing to provide excellent clinical care and top-notch customer service.
We hope to never see circumstances as we saw in 2020 again, BUT we are excited to duplicate and even improve on the care we were able to provide to so many special people as we move forward into 2021 and the years to come.
“We want to thank all of the patients who put their trust in us…”
TURNING FEAR INTO INSPIRATION
Brain Caner Survivor
I was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2019. You might say the way I found out about it was … well, an accident. I was standing outside one day – and the next thing I remember is waking up in the hospital. I had a seizure and blacked out completely, falling on my face on the concrete. The medical staff who treated me in the ICU told me later they assumed I had gone through the windshield of a car. The injuries from the fall were that extensive. My eye was so severely damaged, they had to induce a coma to repair it and, more importantly, to run tests to determine the cause of the seizure.
After a lot of imaging and tests, we were given the news no one ever wants to hear: you have brain cancer. My wife immediately burst into tears. I was numb. Before the reality had fully set in, I was scheduled for brain surgery. The surgeons told us they would remove as much of the tumor as possible without risking – another word you never want to hear – paralysis.
The type of brain cancer I have is called oligodendroglioma. There’s no cure for it, but it’s one of the most treatable brain cancers. I’m grateful for that because I intend to have as much quality of life as I can with the time I have left. I knew that the treatment I went with would play a significant role in that – so I started asking questions and educating myself.
When the first oncologist I met with recommended traditional radiation, I asked about proton therapy. He immediately discouraged it, but I felt strongly that I had to advocate for myself and my quality of life.
Fortunately, I had a friend who worked at Oklahoma Proton Center, so I called, and she helped me get scheduled for an appointment. After I met the people there and learned more about the treatment, I knew it was the right place. We’re talking about my brain here – so there was no question I wanted to go with the option that would most precisely treat the tumor and not harm healthy tissue. After completing my six weeks of proton therapy, there was no doubt I had made the right choice.
Because there is still a part of the tumor left on my brain, I continue to go for scans every three months. But so far, so good.
This diagnosis has changed my life in so many ways – including my career. When my symptoms first started appearing, I had to be transported by ambulance. In one of my greatest moments of fear and confusion, there was an EMT who really impacted me. He cared for me in a way that let me know I was in good hands. I can still see his face to this day. Right then, in that ambulance, I decided that I wanted to become an EMT. I wanted to make that kind of impact on someone’s life – and possibly even save one. I’m proud to say I graduated as an EMT this month.
Look, I know what the statistics are, what the averages are. I know what science has to say about my odds. But I have every intention of trying to skew those statistics as much as I can. I have too much to live for.
Thanks to proton therapy, I can continue not only to
fight to survive but fight for a life worth living.
EMPLOYEE SPOTLIGHT: RETIREMENT ANNOUNCMENT
Patient Services Manager
Not many can claim they’ve been with their company since before it opened for business, but Nycke White is one of them. Though there are no words to express how grateful we are for Nycke, we wanted to take a moment to recall some of the many ways she’s inspired us and shaped us into the Center we are today.
In 2009, Oklahoma Proton Center opened as only the 6th proton center in the Nation and was the first of its kind –a free-standing center, unaffiliated with any academic institute.
Nycke, whose husband had been treated with proton therapy states away, had a firm understanding of what patients needed. Not only a cure –they needed a community for themselves and their families. She was a natural fit to lead what would become the heart of Oklahoma Proton Center, our Patient Services Team. As one of the longest-tenured employees at OPC, Nycke is truly a pioneer in her field for the proton therapy industry.
Over the past decade, Nycke has developed programs for patients. that focus on their emotional and mental wellbeing during treatment. “Patients can be hesitant to sign up for traditional support groups,” says Nycke. “I wanted to create ways for patients and their families to connect authentically.” If you’ve attended a graduation luncheon, participated in the fun of Thursday night dine-around, or received a behind- the-scenes tour during new patient orientation, Nycke was the driving force behind those experiences.
But her vision didn’t stop there. Having experienced the additional strain of relocating for treatment with her husband, Nycke began advocating for programs to alleviate out-of-town patients’ burdens.
This led to building relationships with local hotels and apartment complexes to reduce rates, acquiring a van to provide transportation to and from treatment, and partnerships with the American Cancer Society for additional resources. Her efforts helped bring attention to the need for a foundation that focused on proton therapy patients specifically. She has been an integral part of the formation of the Proton Pals Foundation of Oklahoma.
Nycke’s dedication to embracing patients was more than apparent when OPC was selected to partner with the NHS for international patients traveling to the US for proton therapy. The NHS needed a facility that would do more than provide treatment; they needed to ensure their citizens would have 24/7 support and care. Through her exceptional service to others, OPC has had the privilege of treating hundreds of international patients and building life-long relationships with families all over the world.
To best summarize Nycke’s accomplishments through a quote from a recent patient, “Every person I met at the Center couldn’t have been happier to see me. When you walk through the door, they know you by name and make you feel at ease and welcome. For that moment, you don’t have cancer. You’re their friend.”
Congratulations on your next adventure, Nycke! It’s
been an honor to have you on our team!
LATEST UPDATES FROM PPF
PROTON PALS RESHAPES AND EXPANDS BOARD
Keri Crutchfield, a former Oklahoma Proton Center patient, has been elected as the new Board Chair for Proton Pals. Claudia Haworth will continue as Treasurer. Claudia’s Granddaughter was a patient several years ago and is healthy which, we are thrilled about. The Secretary of the Proton Pals Foundation board is Krista Storey. She moved to Oklahoma when her husband, Dr. Mark Storey, became medical director at the Oklahoma Proton Center. The rest of the Proton Pals board members include Jenny Washington, Ingrid Thompson, Stuart Sullivan, Pieter Meiring, and Aaron Woolsey. These passionate volunteers give their time, talent, and treasures to support patients and families receiving proton therapy.
NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR IS FORMER PATIENT
Jeff Murray, graduate number 290 from the Oklahoma Proton Center, was treated for prostate cancer. Since then, Jeff has been an active volunteer for the Center and, more recently, the Proton Pals Foundation. Jeff was Board Chair since Proton Pals was founded in 2018. However, his role with the charity recently changed.
Les Fout, former executive director, will still be involved but needed a more part-time role to spend more time with his family. As such, Proton Pals needed a new director. Who better than a cancer survivor with a gift for gab that is knowledgeable about and loves proton therapy? The Proton Pals board of directors agreed and unanimously voted for Jeff to take over, leading our efforts in 2021!
Jeff says, “Cancer knows no boundaries. As a proton cancer survivor, I believe it’s important to donate and support those joining our survivors’ fraternity. Gifts of any amount will greatly benefit patients and their families.” In addition to working for Proton Pals, Jeff has been a high school official for football and baseball his entire adult life. However, you can always find him supporting his daughter at her volleyball games around Oklahoma and throughout the country.
Please reach out to Jeff to congratulate him, offer
support, and learn more about Proton Pals.
[email protected] or (405) 697-0286.
WHAT IS PROTON PALS?
Proton Pals Foundation focuses on providing access to proton therapy (help with copays & medical bills), basic needs (housing, transportation & food), and survivorship programs. We receive referrals from the Oklahoma Proton Center team when they meet patients needing assistance during their treatment.
Our services have continued throughout the pandemic thanks to our generous supporters. Many people who need proton therapy do not have the resources to pay for treatment, gas for their car, hotel rooms, or even food.
Unfortunately, some may choose not to get proton therapy because of these challenges, while others go into debt to get treatment. Proton Pals Foundation was started by former patients and families of former patients because they saw a need to support patients.
If you would like to learn more about Proton Pals and see how you might be able to help out as a volunteer, donor, or you may have connections of an individual, business, or foundation that could support their work, please contact Jeff Murray today!
WHO’S BEHIND THOSE MASKS?
GET YOUR FREE MASK TODAY!
CHOOSE ROYAL BLUE OR NAVY
WE WILL MAIL IT TO YOU!
CALL VICKIE AT 405.773.6709
WE WILL BE IN TOUCH!
It goes without saying that 2020 was not what any of us expected. We have all made adjustments to our lives, both major and minor. Through this season, one of our most significant challenges has been the inability to gather together. Our identity is rooted in building a community and family for those we have the privilege of serving. Please know that we miss you! We are anxiously awaiting the day we can all come together again to celebrate, embrace one another, and lift each other up. For now, we will continue to follow safety protocols and maintain social distancing, but we will be in touch the moment we can safely return to our regular schedule. Be on the lookout for updates on the following:
- Graduation Luncheons
- Survivor Events
- Graduation Mixers
- Montgly Cyclotron Tours
- Proton Pals Foundation Fundraising Events
WHO WE ARE
A LEGACY OF LEADERSHIP
Oklahoma Proton Center is one of only 33 proton centers in the country and one of only 5 in the Southwest. It opened as the 6th proton center in the country in 2009 and has been a leader in the field for over a decade. Over 3,200 patients have traveled from around the world, including 38 different states, to Oklahoma City for the state-of-the-art treatment at the center. The 60,000 square foot facility is at the corner of MacArthur and Memorial adjacent to the INTEGRIS Cancer Institute.