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Local Concord Resident Tackles Cancer with Proton Therapy, A Radical Treatment

Jul 17, 2017 05:43PM ● Published by Melanie Heisinger

Jim Jewell with his primary doctor and nurse at Provision Healthcare in Tennessee.

Jim Jewell is a local Concord, North Carolina native that is no stranger to the word "cancer." What makes Jim's story unique, however, is how he was able to not only tackle cancer head-on, but how he was able to beat it. 

Jewell co-owns a Napa Auto Parts Store with his son Kevin in the Concord area. It is Jewell's ideal dream to let his son take it over fully one day, though Kevin does already almost fully run it himself today. 

Jim Jewell with a memorial plaque
of his late wife, Betty.

On March 29, 2016, his wife, Betty, passed away with multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer. She went through chemotherapy as treatment, and ultimately passed from the treatment itself. 

Before his wife's passing, Jewell had experienced his first scare with cancer. 4 years prior he had a PSA test done to scan primarily for prostate cancer, a common procedure. Something was discovered with this test and he ended up having a biopsy. Luckily the came back benign, but from then on, Jewell had to be re-tested every six months. 

On June 1st, a few months after his wife had passed, Jewell went in again to get tested and found that his levels had elevated and that he did indeed now have malignant prostate cancer. 


Finding a New Way

Right away, he made an appointment with his friend and family's general practitioner, Dr. Joe Oliver, III to get some advice. There, he was told that he would need to go through radiation and chemotherapy to reach recovery, though Dr. Oliver wasn't up to date on everything.

Courtesy of provisionha.com

He let Jewell know that he would call his brother John, who is a colonoscopy specialist in Los Angeles, to see if there was any new treatments out there. It was Dr. Oliver's brother that introduced proton therapy, a cancer treatment with a 98% success rate. 

At this news, Jewell was floored. Dr. Oliver informed him that John had been sending patients to proton therapy for 8 years, explaining how it worked and how successful it was.

They discussed this new form of treatment, proton therapy, as a possible option but Jewell wanted to make sure that he had all of the facts before he made any decision.


Making a Decision

Jewell went to see an oncologist to get all the information he could on what the worst possible outcomes and side effects of targeted radiation and chemotherapy were. He was told that the procedures involved would be incredibly painful, the prostate would swell, and other parts of his body would most likely be damaged in the process. 

The oncologist explained that the treatment used, targeted radiation, could potentially cause severe damage to other parts of the body that aren't his prostate. Worst case scenario, he could lose 35% of his manhood, the bladder could be damaged so severely that he would need to wear a diaper, and the same with the rectum.

Though his only intention was to see what he was dealing with, Jewell could see that proton therapy was the way to go. He did initially consider this process, but ultimately decided against it.

Remembering his experience with his wife, Jewell confirmed, "I wasn’t going to do surgery, and I certainly wasn’t going to do chemotherapy. That’s how my wife died.”

Jewell asked his oncologist about proton therapy, but the response was unenthusiastic. Since proton therapy is so new, there is limited data on it. However, according to the oncologist, he had had two patients that had gone through proton therapy, so he'd heard of it before. 

Dr. Oliver told Jewell about Provision Healthcare in Tennessee, specialists in proton therapy. To Dr. Oliver, it was a "no-brainer."   


Proton Therapy

Courtesy of proton-therapy.org

Proton therapy is a medical procedure that uses x-ray technology to target certain cells in the body. It is "uses a single beam of high-energy protons to treat various forms of cancer. Just as with conventional radiation therapy, proton therapy treats tumors by directing radiation into the tumor site where doses of radiation destroy cancerous cells," as said by provisionproton.com.

What sets this therapy apart from other forms of radiation is the amount of control the doctor is able to have over the cells targeted and how strongly the radiation is applied. This process is done in a series of appointments, each one 20 minutes at a time. 

According to proton-therapy.org, "As a result of protons' dose-distribution characteristics, the radiation oncologist can increase the dose to the tumor while reducing the dose to surrounding normal tissues. This allows the dose to be increased beyond that which less-conformal radiation will allow. The overall affects lead to the potential for fewer harmful side effects, more direct impact on the tumor, and increased tumor control."

This form of treatment is so non-invasive that it allows a patient to walk straight out of the procedure and go about their day. Jewell explained that he experienced zero side effects. His radiation treatment was through the hip and performed by a specialized machine for only a brief moment. 

In the middle of July 2016, Jewell gave them a call, set up an appointment, and headed on over to Knoxville, Tennessee to begin treatment at Provision Healthcare

Courtesy of Provision Center for Proton Therapy. "Provision is one of 26 proton therapy centers in the nation and our parent company, Provision Healthcare is developing more centers. Facilities are under development in Nashville, Orlando and China. These centers with be outfitted with the SC360 system, the next generation in proton therapy equipment, also developed by Provision. The SC360 received 510(k) FDA clearance in just four years since inception. So even though today is the official National Technology Day, here at Provision we are immersed in leading edge technologies every single day so that we can advance our mission of fighting #cancer! Pictured is board certified radiation oncologist Ben Wilkinson, MD, medical director of the Provision Proton Therapy Center. He is in one of our state-of-the-art treatment rooms."

Jewell was scheduled for 39 total treatments, 5 a week, Monday through Friday. He would drive to Knoxville on Monday and stay there all week. Luckily Provision had a deal with the local-area motels so he was able to make it work. 

The Provision Healthcare center, largely backed by Olympic gold medalist ice skater Scott Hamilton, was an oasis for Jewell during this period of his life. He noted how he would "go two, three hours early to talk with the men and women that were there. A lot of times I would go and just sit in their big lobby, they had a lot of drinks, and just visit." 

500th patient Lou Lovingood and 1000th patient Amy Rush pose next to the victory bell both rang at their graduations from Provision Center for Proton Therapy

He found immense support and companionship throughout his experience and explained that the energy of the building was "like being in a good church." Once every patient has finished their treatment, they even get an opportunity to ring a ceremonious bell that is on-site -- even more like church! They also provide a certificate of completion. 

September 30, 2016 was Jewell's final treatment. On that day, he was able to ring the bell himself. According to Jewell, in his experience there, the staff all went "above and beyond" for him and his treatments. He is incredibly grateful for everything.

3 months later, Jewell visited his urologist as a standard check up, and found that his levels were normal and there were no signs of cancer. He had successfully beat it using proton therapy.


A Bigger Battle 

Getting covered for proton therapy is a battle that has been happening with insurance companies since its inception. Because it's such a new treatment option the battle to qualify proton therapy has been a rocky road. 

Luckily, "Proton beam therapy is neither experimental nor investigational. It is an established form of treatment that is widely accepted by physicians, government agencies and many insurers, including Medicare and Medicaid (which do not cover investigational or experimental treatments)," says proton-therapy.org.

So, there's still a long way to go before it is widely accepted, but it's well on its way. Jim Jewell is a testament to its success, and he is incredibly grateful that his insurance covered it completely. 

Please share, and see below for sources and resources to learn more about this treatment.  



Sources & Resources:

http://www.proton-therapy.org/howit.htm

http://provisionha.com/ 

http://provisionhealthcare.com/prostate-report

https://scottcares.org/alliance/scott-hamilton-proton-therapy-center

http://protonstories.com/

http://www.proton-therapy.org/insurance_strategies.htm

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