Survivor Spotlight: Proton alum and teammates win national title at USTA Championship

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National Champions Tennis 8.0 Seniors. Honored to play with these guys! An Undefeated Team in 16 Matches. Pictured from l to r: Dickie Anderson, Howard Rugaber, Randy Scott, Mark Levy, Jimmy Parker, Joe Simon, not pictured Ron Hale

A recreational tennis player since his thirties, proton alum (2009) Howard Rugaber didn’t expect that at age 66 he would be a national champion. But, to his surprise, he and his doubles teammates rose through the ranks to win the National USTA 8.0 championships held in Surprise, Ariz., in April.

“I was asked to be on the team in June of last year,” said Howard who lives in St. Simons Island, Ga., where he owns and operates a landscaping company. “A friend of mine who I play tennis with from Columbus, Ga., was putting together a team to beat the other GA teams in the state tournament. When he asked me, I said, ‘I don’t play much doubles, but I’ll be happy to be on the team.’ I learned a lot on the way.”

The way ended up being a state tournament win in Savannah, Ga., that led to a regional tournament win in Dothan, Ala., ending in the national title win in Arizona.

Howard said the team practiced hard between tournaments to be ready for the competitions. Judging by their athletic achievement, you would never know that some of the players had previously had knee replacements, hip replacements, and proton therapy for prostate cancer.

When Howard was diagnosed with prostate cancer, he talked to friends and a fellow tennis player about it and they told him about their success in beating the disease with proton therapy at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. As a University of Florida alum, it was an easy decision for him to have proton therapy in Jacksonville. 

“I was very fortunate. I was kind of a poster child for all the treatments. I had no negatives associated with it,” Howard said. Even with a three-hour round-trip commute to receive daily treatment he maintained his regular schedule. “I worked every day, and I played tennis almost every day. I didn’t really get tired like some people do who get radiation.”

More than six years post-treatment, Howard and his wife Trish, whom he met while in college at UF, enjoy spending long weekends in the Jacksonville area at the beaches in Ponte Vedra and playing tennis with friends.

About This Newsletter

The Precision Newsletter is an electronic-only publication that is distributed by email. Each issue is sent monthly to patients, alumni patients and friends of the University of Florida Health Proton Therapy Institute. As the official newsletter of the Institute, the content is compiled and prepared by our communications representative and approved by the editor Stuart Klein, executive director of UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. Special bulletin newsletters may occasionally be prepared when timely topics and new developments in proton therapy occur. If you would like to send a Letter to the Editor, please click here.


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