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Pom - Prostate Cancer

Pom - Prostate Cancer

Pom is one of our prostate cancer survivors who attended many graduations to play music and make the event even more memorable for patients finishing treatment. We really appreciate Pom and his wife, Kathi, for bringing joy to all of us. We hope you enjoy Pom’s story!

Tell us briefly what brought you to proton therapy.

I was told by my urologist I had prostate cancer in September 2018. Within a few days a man I know asked if I’d like to talk. He had been treated with proton therapy in Virginia. I was only dimly aware of proton therapy; my urologist had mentioned it in passing and then dismissed it. But after I talked with my older brother, who had undergone surgical prostatectomy, and had suffered from complications, I knew I had to look at other options. He’d told me: “It sure takes the fun out of life,” referring to incontinence and sexual dysfunction. Medical professionals are often just as tradition-bound as anyone; I should know because I’m a retired physician myself. Although I started out as a skeptic, I learned that proton therapy is a more focused form of radiation with less damage to surrounding tissue. It was a compelling argument for me. And even though I worried that my insurance wouldn’t cover it, it did without any argument. 

What does music mean to you?

I think music is quite hard to define and understand. I sometimes ask people I meet about the meaning of music. One snowy Montana night I picked up a young hitch-hiker and asked her the question. She simply said, “Music is virtue.” It was an inspiring pronouncement. Music for me is a pathway into the soul. I have poor hearing, so lyrics have always been of secondary interest to me. But music itself connects the emotional state of the listener to the performer without the squabble of the conscious mind getting in the way. In this sense, music is more pure and virtuous than most speech. Music is one way humans, in all societies, self-regulate their emotional environment. Music is potent and important to the human condition.

What made you want to play at so many proton therapy graduations?

When I came to Seattle for treatment, I knew that it would be of great benefit for our emotional wellbeing and our sense of purpose to have opportunities to play. Friends in Bellingham were kind enough to arrange a concert for us there. It was actually one of the radiation therapists who suggested we play in the lobby of the Center. I have to admit, I approached this with some trepidation. Meredith and the concierge staff were marvelous and helped develop the idea. Being able to participate in the graduations allowed me to hear some remarkable stories from proton patients. This was healing and empowering in a variety of ways. I came to feel a sense of empathy and common cause with individuals who have much more challenging situations than I have. Yet I felt I could participate in their care in this small way.


Pom and Kathi play at a graduation in February 2019.

Pom jams with our concierge, Colton, whose birthday it was that day. Pom is playing a nyckleharpa.

Do you have a funny story about you and music you could share?

Once I organized a conference, and we had a culminating concert at the school auditorium in the small town of Fortine, Montana. After a fabulous evening everyone had left, and I realized my car battery was dead. I walked over to a nearby bar that had a reputation for being very rowdy to use their phone and get help, but I couldn’t reach anyone. I realized that I was going to be dependent on the human potential at the bar. I sat down and ordered a drink and started chatting with the assembled folks there. Sure enough, shortly after, voices were raised and a fight began to break out between two men who’d had a few too many. I had brought my fiddle along, so I started playing it. That was enough of a surprise that the belligerents stopped what they were doing! One thing led to another, and in time I got a ride home, a good 45 minutes away.

What will you remember most about your experience here at the Center?

There are several things that will remain memorable. One is how friendly and warm the staff are. I didn’t want to leave them behind when I returned home, they became my friends. Of course our musical interludes at the graduations will also stay with me for a long time. Perhaps the most remarkable memories I have are of getting to know patients with very challenging cancer diagnoses, much more threatening than my own. There is nothing like cancer to make one realize the beauty and miracle of life. I think all cancer patients can share in that. But to see people face very poor odds, with strength, and indeed enthusiasm for life, was for me the greatest inspiration. I hope I can always remember their example and draw strength from it.

Pom inspires a whole group of musicians to play at graduation.