The Edmond Sun

Local News

June 7, 2012

Britons find breakthrough treatment in Oklahoma

EDMOND — Oklahoma is the name of a musical for most poeple in Great Britain, but for seven British families at ProCure Proton Therapy, the state means a life without the damages from radiation.

Nicole Bower, 10, came to ProCure in May to continue treatment for a brain tumor.

Tere and Christine Bower, Nicole’s parents, said their daughter was diagnosed with cancer in February. After a 17-hour operation in Britain to remove the tumor, Nicole started on chemotherapy. The treatment made her sick, her parents said.

“She was traumatized by the hospital and chemotherapy issue,” Christine said.

But the story has been different when they got to the Oklahoma therapy center to begin radiation treatment.

“She’s been so reassured and so calm,” Christine said. “We came four weeks ago in a wheelchair.”

Now Nicole is running around, playing with other children in the center and even making jokes with other parents and center employees Tuesday during a Diamond Jubilee celebration for Queen Elixabeth’s II 60-year reign in the United Kingdom at the center at 5901 W. Memorial Road in Oklahoma City.

Sitting and celebrating with the Bowers are Graham Ellis and his partner Lisa Coppack, both 41.

They too have been at the center since May while their 12-year-old daughter Bailey gets treatment for a brain tumor.

Not only are the two families from the same country, but they live 10 miles from each other in West Yorkshire.

Ellis said when he found out the family had to go to Oklahoma for treatment, he had no clue where that was.

“I knew there was a film about Oklahoma,” he said. “But I couldn’t have put a pin in a map and said ‘it’s there.’”

What these families came to the Sooner state for was proton therapy, a type of radiation that can target a specifically affected area. The therapy zeroes in on just the cancerous area, rather than putting radiation on both cancer cells and healthy cells, said Nycke White, ProCure patient services manager.

“Because we don’t damage healthy tissues and organs, we can minimize the side effects that go along with that,” White said.

ProCure has three centers in the United States, including Oklahoma. One is in New Jersey and the other is in suburban Chicago.

But rather than go to the centers in those visible cities, many come to the Oklahoma City center, which opened in 2009 due to availability.

Although Oklahoma may not seem like the place to be in the U.S. for British visitors, the families seem impressed with the state.

“It’s lovely,” Ellis said. “There’s so much space and it’s so clean. This place is amazing.”

Coppack said the people here are what she loves.

“Everybody is just so nice, they’re so pleasant in the shops and all about,” she said. “It’s a lovely place.”

Last summer, White said ProCure started a contract wit the United Kingdom’s National Health Service to allow patients needing treatment to come to the centers.

Since then, 31 Britons have come to Oklahoma City for treatment, White said. She added that people from 28 U.S. states and seven other countries have also traveled to the center for treatment.

White said the families usually stay for about eight weeks of treatment before returning home.

“Overall the whole experience has been really positive,” said Tere Bowers. “People here were literally looking after us before we even came ... to let us get on with the treatment.”

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