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Survivor Spotlight: Tom Flynn Found Unexpected Community while Undergoing Proton Therapy

Ackerman Cancer Center

September 15, 2016

College alumni associations are a great way to keep in touch and network after graduation, but as prostate cancer survivor Tom Flynn recently discovered, some groups do much more.

At 59 years of age, life was going well for Tom. He was successful, active, and had a wonderful new woman in his life. In fact, it was Tom’s girlfriend who urged him to take better care of his health by scheduling a colonoscopy and prostate exam. When the test revealed early-stage prostate cancer, Tom jumped into action.

“Dr. Kasper at Lynn Cancer Center in Delray, Florida, talked to me about my options, including robotic surgery. I told him I was focused on quality of life and asked, ‘Man-to-man, what would you do?’ Half an hour later I had an appointment to see Dr. Ackerman in Jacksonville for proton therapy.”

Tom was committed to proton therapy treatment, but since Jacksonville was nearly four hours away, he needed a place to stay. The prospect of living in a hotel room seemed both lonely and expensive, but with the help of Chelsea Foote, LCSW, an oncology social worker at Ackerman Cancer Center, Tom was able to connect with the Jacksonville chapter of his alma mater, the University of Notre Dame.

When fellow alum Rich Thomann learned of Tom’s plight, he generously offered to share his home during the 45 days of treatment. “I was able to stay with a real family, in a real home, complete with two dogs and three cats,” Tom explains.

Rich and Tom had both played football for Notre Dame, and Rich was a long-time assistant coach at The Bolles School, a local college preparatory school with such accomplished alumni as Olympic swimmer Ryan Murphy and Super Bowl Champion Jason Spitz.

Tom quickly became part of the group, enjoying daily lunches with Bolles’ head coach, Corky Rogers, and the rest of the coaching staff. In addition, he played pickleball at the YMCA near the cancer center, worked out at L.A. Fitness and, through Rich, met numerous Jacksonville residents.

Tom sailed through treatment without a glitch. So much so, he worried things were going too well. “Halfway through, my doctor in West Palm Beach ordered a blood test to reassure me. It was four weeks in, and my PSA had dropped from 7.7 to 3.6.” PSA levels continue to decline throughout treatment and in the months after treatment is completed.

As for his experience at Ackerman Cancer Center, Tom says it could not have been better. “You won’t find a more welcoming doctor’s office. It’s like going to a spa.”

He is grateful to Chelsea, whom he describes as “friendly, fun, and bubbly as all get-out,” and to the rest of the staff. “Each day you are greeted by smiling faces. I started in April, finished in June, and I feel I’m pretty much back to normal now.”

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