First patient treated enjoying life after the cure
By BeckyLynn Schroeder
The past 10 years have been eventful for 64-year-old Ben Smith. He and his wife, Lisa, have raised two children, restored a 36-foot sailboat, spent months sailing around the Bahamas and are planning other trips around the world. Enjoying life has always been a priority for Smith, even after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2005.
Smith, a now-retired aerospace engineer, did his own research on prostate cancer treatment after his urologist had suggested a radical and potentially life-altering treatment. His search led him to the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute, then still under construction, and he would become the first person treated at the facility. For background on Smith’s diagnosis and treatment, read a previous article, “Moving on from prostate cancer.”
“You have to be your own advocate. Many doctors recommend the treatment they know best – but that might not mean it’s the right path for you to take. Of course, the end game is to get rid of cancer. But when you come out on the other side, you also want to have a decent quality of life.”
“When I was first diagnosed, I was scared. I was a young man, had teenage kids, a beautiful wife and I felt like I had just received a death sentence. But, it’s not. It’s a curable disease and proton therapy allows many people to keep living and not be straddled with devices and diapers,” said Smith.
Smith recalls that he had no reservations about waiting a year for the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute to open for treatment as he felt it was his only viable option. When he arrived at the treatment facility the first day it was open in August 2006, to him it felt like they had built the facility just for him.
“You don’t just have a doctor and a therapist, there’s also a team of physicists, computer programmers, software engineers, hardware engineers and company representatives all looking at you and your little walnut-sized prostate, in my case. I always felt that I was well taken care of and the staff was so dedicated and simply unbelievable from day one,” Smith notes about his initial impressions of the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. “I went through 29 treatments and never felt like I was over radiated and I never got burned. I also did not and do not suffer to this day from impotency and incontinence – common side-effects from more conventional, radical forms of prostate cancer treatment.”
“My doctor had said to me that I can’t say that I’m ‘cured’ from cancer for at least five years after treatment. Well, it’s 10 years later and I’m proud to say that I’m cured. I’ve beaten prostate cancer and, thanks to proton therapy and the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute, I’ve been able to maintain a fairly active lifestyle and just live a regular life.”
Smith and his wife are currently visiting their adult children in the western U.S. and will be spending a few months in New Zealand. They have closed the book on cancer and are enjoying life to the fullest.