Sneak peek: Provision’s proton therapy future

Posted by on Friday, June 10th, 2016


This past week’s 1,000th patient celebration culminated a whirlwind week of progress for Provision and its quest to make proton therapy as available and accessible as any other cancer treatment.


In short: More patients than ever are coming to Provision Center for Proton Therapy in Knoxville. And Provision will soon be delivering protons to patients around the world.

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A Fine-Tuned & Well-Orchestrated Symphony

Posted by on Friday, August 29th, 2014

Gene & Group with fedoras

PHOTO CAPTION:  Recent patient and new Proton Ambassador Gene Ponkauskas (second from the right) was known for wearing his stylish fedora every day.  On his graduation day at the completion of his treatment, the clinical staff surprised Gene and wore fedoras in honor of him. 

You may recall last week’s video blog featuring Gene Ponkauskas and his patient experience while undergoing proton therapy treatment, especially his love of the Wellness Center here on the Provision campus.  He graciously wrote a lovely newsletter article for us to recap his treatment journey.  It was such a moving piece, we just had to share it with you.  Here it is, in his own words:

As my journey at the Provision Center for Proton Therapy comes to an end and I leave to “carry on” as the saying goes, I go with a heavy heart. Looking back, it is these incredible talented, dedicated, caring, and professional people, all of whom teamed together to make my time with prostate cancer and its treatment a pleasant and most memorable experience. Pleasant and memorable for most are not words one would ordinarily associate with cancer but for me, given the alternatives, they are most fitting. It is remarkable to think that the staff of the Provision Center for Proton Therapy, in their short life together, have grown into this amazing center of hope and restoration to those of us who suffer from one of many forms of cancer.

I first heard the word cancer from my primary care physician at the VA who referred me to the urologist and after a most unpleasant biopsy discovered a problem from a surgical procedure some 50 years ago. This being said, I had limited entry to the one area which I later learned my future therapist would explore on a daily basis throughout my treatments… I’LL JUST SAY, THEIR KINDNESS AND GENTLENESS WAS MOST APPRECIATED.

Once it was confirmed that it was cancer it began with a parade of options which we, who have been there, are all too familiar with. Surgery, radiation, seeds and one urologist even suggested waiting and watching because, “You have a better chance of being hit and killed by a tour bus off the planet of Mars than to die from prostate cancer, and at your age you will most likely die of something else.” Needless to say first, it was cancer and second “at my age”, how dare he; I have a lot of life yet to live.

After exploring the options laid out to me and with the prospect of the peripheral ramifications from diapers, incontinence and impotency, along with a whole host of unpleasant and horrific possibilities, they all were confident they could remove the cancer…BUT!!  It was that BUT that lead to my wife’s and my belief that there had to be something else because up to that point we didn’t see any type of outcome that gave us any comfort until we requested a package from Provision Center for Proton Therapy. From that point on I’ll repeat what a pleasant, memorable experience it has been. From our initial consultation with Dr. Marcio Fagundes to the last insertion of my final balloon and last treatment I feel none the worse for wear and, as far as I can tell, all systems remain fully functional.

As I recount my journey, I see the Provision Center as a fine-tuned and well-orchestrated symphony. Initially I saw Dr. Fagundes as the conductor, but have come to believe him to be the instrument in which a much higher power has placed the baton. Let me begin with the brass, and what would a symphony be without brass. The therapists who administered the daily treatments are indeed the players of the brass and they play it well, thanks to a mystery group of instrument technicians who fine tune that brass to each parent’s specific need.

Of course, to keep our full attention, there is plenty of liquid refreshment and each attendee is given a balloon as a remembrance only just to be taken back as you leave their arena. Not that I know of anyone who has asked to keep theirs. Yes, this symphony has brass!! Mellowing the brass are the strings which is the medical team that reads our vitals and a lot more to balance out the sometimes overpowering brass.

Between the rhythm of the brass and the strings there is that one element which keeps everything running on time and in sync, and that is the percussions. Each performance, as we lay motionless, listening to the clunks, whirrs, bells and chimes, this symphony has its own master percussionist. Personally, I’ve heard those sounds, along with a few others that some might think did not belong in the tune I expected to be playing, but I disagree. Let’s just say, hearing a strange sound at a symphony most of the time would not be a good thing.

And finally, harmony, that being the support staff, they always present a supportive staff which blends all the sounds together. This makes the beautiful music of the Provision Center for Proton Therapy for all of us who have had the good fortune to hear. Yes, the Provision Center for Proton Therapy is a Symphony, but no encore for me…………. just PLAY ON, OH YES, PLEASE DO PLAY ON!!!!!!

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Provision Treats 100th Patient

Posted by on Friday, August 8th, 2014


The Provision Center for Proton Therapy, Tennessee’s first and only proton therapy treatment facility, celebrated the treatment of its 100th patient today.  Located in Knoxville on the Dowell Springs medical campus, the first patient was treated back in January with this revolutionary and accurate cancer treatment available at only in a handful of cities in the U.S.

Mr. Marshall Munro from Kingsport, Tennessee, completed his treatments today and gained the designation of patient number 100.  Munro completed  40 treatments for prostate cancer.  He traveled four hours round trip from his hime in Kingsport to Knoxville for 40 treatments.  “That’s 10,000 miles and two oil changes,” joked Munro, “but I’m very happy with my decision and it was definitely worth it.”

Provision’s third treatment room is scheduled to open in early fall. Once the third treatment room opens the Provision Center for Proton Therapy will have the ability to provide life-saving cancer treatment to as many as 90+ patients per day.

“The treatment of our 100th patient is an exciting achievement,” said Mary Lou DuBois, President of Provision Center for Proton Therapy.  “We are blessed and honored to provide our community and this region with the most compassionate and effective cancer treatment available today. ”


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Richard Patton: Proton Therapy Patient Story – Part 1

Posted by on Friday, June 27th, 2014


Former Provision Center for Proton Therapy patient Richard Patton tells his proton therapy story, in his own words . . .

My journey to proton therapy probably started like a lot of people that choose this type of treatment. I did my due diligence and researched all available treatments to try and find the one that I thought would be best for me. I searched the internet, read tons of material and even spoke with other survivors. I even met with a team of doctors at a top University hospital which is rated as one of the top ten cancer treatment centers in the United States. I must say they did have an impressive facility with a large glass fronted building and a lobby/atrium with lavish furnishings. A string quartet was playing in the mezzanine and a pianist was busy on the main floor.

What I soon found out, however, was the doctors there pretty much pushed their own area of expertise which was primarily surgery and rounds of conventional radiation therapy, hormone therapy, etc… I left there for the trip back home feeling sad and alone with thoughts of treatments resulting in wearing adult diapers or being nauseated for weeks on end from radiation therapy….and what about hormone therapy? Would I start growing breasts and shopping uncontrollably? Obviously more research was required. At that point I had pretty much written off proton therapy because I just couldn’t see me spending weeks in a strange place all by myself and going through the treatments too.

Shortly thereafter, a minor miracle happened. My cousin who lives in Knoxville and works in the medical field told my parents about the new Provision Center for Proton Therapy and suggested I consider it for my treatment. I searched the website and discovered the center was located just about a mile from my parent’s home! I liked the idea of a “radiation vacation” but all indications were that it wasn’t scheduled to open until January 2014 and I had been diagnosed in September 2013. I was really disappointed. I didn’t think I could wait that long because like most people I assumed that once you are diagnosed with cancer the next step is to get it out ASAP. But the University surgeon had told me in early October they wouldn’t be able to operate on me until about mid-December as they like to give the prostate time to heal from the biopsy to lessen the chance of possible infection. That was just another month before theProvision Center was scheduled to open, so I thought this just may work out.

I also discovered that prostate cancer can be a slow growing form of cancer and that many people live with it and employ the watchful waiting technique, so I decided another month wouldn’t really make a big difference.  Things were starting to come together!  I first contacted the Provision Center around the middle of October and spoke with Kathleen Steele and started the process. I received the necessary paper work and Robert J. Marckini’s book, “You Can Beat Prostate Cancer.” I read the book continuously after work and finished it on the second day. I was really getting psyched. I was home for the holidays my parents and I took a tour of the facility. My mother along with the rest of my family were still struggling to come to terms with the fact that my older brother had just passed away suddenly a week earlier. My family was encouraged by the center and were all very hopeful that I would get better.

I came home for a couple of weeks around Christmas and during the first week I had my preliminary work done such as the MRI and placing of the fiducial markers. I joked with the family that no one could say I was worthless anymore because with the gold markers and a gold filling in one of my teeth I was at least worth a few bucks. Looking back I would say that the preliminary work was probably the worst part of the whole experience. I will never forget the kindness that was extended to me by the people at the center. I especially remember Rebecca Thomas, Nurse Manager, holding my hand for the marker placement. That small act of kindness still stands out in my mind. I found out that Zach Dutton, Radiation Therapist, has “the hands of an angel.” I really liked the staff and looked forward to seeing them despite the circumstances. We had a few laughs too, like the time the gown I was given one day looked like it was made for a child and the therapists really liked my “mini-skirt.” One of the girls said she had seen me in a gown so often she probably wouldn’t recognize me if we met on the street. I really miss everyone at Provision and I truly feel like I left a part of myself there too.

I am beginning to miss East Tennessee after being home for so long and I am looking to finding work there. Don’t be surprised if you see me around the water cooler one day. Provision is a place with such great people who really make a difference. I will definitely return for a visit one way or another. My health condition is improving each week and the “plumbing” is working pretty well so I hope to be back to normal soon. I can honestly say that my time with Provision was a life changing experience and I think about it every day. When I think about the day I walked out of my last treatment and everyone was there waiting for me and applauding, I get choked up every time. The real applause belongs to the staff at Provision Center for Proton Therapy and the fine work they do there. I am eternally grateful.

Mr. Patton’s story does not end here . . . look for Part 2 of his inspirational story next week.


Elizabeth Vanzo is the Hospitality Manager at Provision Center for Proton Therapy.


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International Patients Travel to Knoxville for Proton Therapy Treatments

Posted by on Tuesday, June 10th, 2014


With less than 50 proton therapy centers in the world, Provision Center for Proton Therapy in Knoxville, Tennessee, serves as local, national and international host to patients from all corners of the globe that need proton therapy. Provision takes special care of all patients through our Culture of Care initiatives that respect the dignity of every person. We work diligently to know the needs of our patients and make their stay as comfortable as possible. We know that patients who make Knoxville their home away from home during treatment have different needs than those who are local. Provision has continued to grow in the number and diversity of patients we treat, not just in disease site, but also in nationality!

We are privileged to treat our very first international patient in this month! We welcome all nationalities and cultures to the Provision Center for Proton Therapy, as the Knoxville community is an “International Ready” community, and can provide full support of our patient’s experience. Understanding the needs of our international patients and exceeding their expectations is our distinguishing feature among other medical providers. We place great value on the patient experience and we are ready to serve the needs of all patients.


Nancy Howard is Vice President of Patient Services and the Scott Hamilton CARES Foundation.

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Provision Celebrates Another Milestone: Gantry Treatment Room Open

Posted by on Friday, April 25th, 2014


The Creekside treatment room (pictured above) at Provision Center for Proton Therapy is the first of two 360-degree gantry treatment rooms that can treat patients who have more complex cancers in a variety of disease sites. 

Provision Center for Proton Therapy celebrated yet another milestone this week – the opening of the first of two gantry treatment rooms.   The gantry rotates 360 degrees around the patient enabling us to treat a variety of more complex cancers such as brain, lung, breast, head and neck, esophageal, and pediatric cancers.

Pencil Beam Scanning

This room will also have a precise form of treatment: Pencil Beam Scanning (PBS). Pencil beam scanning uses a beam that is much smaller than those used in more common proton treatments and allows us to “paint” the tumor with protons. It can therefore be used to treat difficult tumors at higher doses and with fewer side effects to surrounding healthy tissue. There are currently less than 10 centers in the United States that have access to this incredible technology.

Third Treatment Room

Our third treatment room is scheduled to open in early fall. Once the third treatment room opens the Provision Center for Proton Therapy will have the ability to provide life-saving cancer treatment to as many as 90+ patients per day.

Grand Opening

The Provision team would like to invite all former, current, and future patients along with friends and family to the official Grand Opening of the Provision Center for Proton Therapy on Wednesday, April 30 at 3 p.m. We will have special guest speakers in celebration of the grand opening. Refreshments will be provided and the center will be open for tours. Please contact us at (865) 862-1600 to RSVP or for more information.

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The Value of Taking a Break

Posted by on Friday, April 18th, 2014


A peaceful destination is the perfect place to stop and take a break.  We can all benefit from a break, whether from work, stress or just a change of scenery.   Taking a break can sharpen our minds, enhance our creativity, motivation and give us strength to cope with stress.

Remember the story about the man who stopped to sharpen his axe?  Two men were in a competition to see who could chop down the most trees in a day.  One man was much larger and the people in the town were wagering that he would win, 20-1 as the favorite.  The smaller man knew he needed a competitive advantage.  He knew his tool would be his competitive advantage.  When the competition started, both men began chopping fiercely against the clock.  The difference was the smaller man stopped every hour to sharpen his axe.  The sharper axe would give him better precision and efficiency.  Spectators were in awe that he would stop and waste this precious time as the larger man would surely beat him. In the end, the smaller man won the competition, as his axe was sharpened every hour and could chop with more precision, giving him the advantage of a better tool than the larger man using a duller axe.

Our minds are our tools for everything we do, and it’s important to nurture our minds, just as we do our bodies. Located just off Middlebrook Pike in Knoxville, Tennessee, the beautiful campus at Dowell Springs serves as host to 700 employees from a multitude of employers ranging from medical providers and services to federal government, in addition to 500 daily patient visitors, who come to Dowell Springs from all over the region.  Beautifully landscaped grounds and water features replace block after block of asphalt and concrete that’s typical in many business parks and downtown office buildings.

It would be easy to miss this prized treasure on the campus that takes you outdoors to a peaceful park-like setting. Nestled in the center of the campus, the one-mile “Dowell Springs Walking Trail” highlighted by beautiful waterfalls is accessible and convenient from any building on the campus. The trail is paved with sunlight, shade, beautiful landscaping, benches to stop and rest or lawn areas to bring a chair and a book, or a blanket for a picnic lunch. Let your senses enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of all the beautiful seasons, but especially the spring dogwood and redbud blooms, or the colorful display of the fall foliage and the many small creatures that call the campus their home.  The Dowell Springs Walking Trail has been featured in the Dogwood Arts Festival as a “commercial camera site,” open to the public to visit and enjoy its natural beauty. Visit the Knoxville Dogwood Arts Festival at:

Adjacent to the business park is the 1.7-acre site of the Lonas-Dowell house, a local historical landmark built in 1858 from brick molded out of Tennessee clay.  Dowell Springs Business Park donated the adjacent Lonas-Dowell house property, one of the oldest historical and continuously occupied archaeological sites in Knox County, to Knox Heritage for restoration and preservation.

We encourage you to “take a break” wherever you are, and sharpen your axe! If you are in the Dowell Springs area, we invite you visit our magnificent walking trail and immerse yourself in the beauty of this beautiful area.


Nancy Howard is Vice President of Patient Services and the Scott Hamilton CARES Foundation.

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