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A Proton Center, A Grandfather, and A Grandson

A Proton Center, A Grandfather, and A Grandson

Some of you will recognize our concierge, Colton. He's one of the first faces you will see when entering the Center, helping our patients navigate their treatment process. But did you know that Colton's grandfather, William, was one of our earliest patients in 2014?

William is now retired but was an organic chemist and has a good knowledge of the sciences, including physics. In addition, his wife, Naomi, was a graduate of Loma Linda University, a pioneer in proton therapy. So when it was time to try radiation for his prostate cancer in 2014, William knew that he would opt for proton therapy.

"My urologist said 'radiation is radiation,' but I respectfully told him he was wrong," says William. "I thought I'd go to Loma Linda but found that the Center had opened locally a year before."

One of the things he recalls is how well everyone at the Center treated him. Also, he was surprised by the unique aspects of the process, which he hadn't encountered before. "There was an orientation where we toured the Center and learned what to expect. Following treatment there was the graduation ceremony, where patients were invited to speak. One guy read a poem he'd written. I got to stand up and thank everyone on my team. It felt really good."

This picture of Dr. Rengan and William - taken at William's graduation - ended up on the cover of the 2014 SCCA Annual Report. "I like this picture," says William. "It shows the close relationships between the provider and the patient.”

During his time at the Center, William got well acquainted with his doctor, Dr. Ramesh Rengan. He brought Colton along to one of his visits because Colton – who was an undergraduate at the University of Washington at the time – was very interested in medicine.

"Dr. Rengan was willing to talk to me about pursuing a career in medicine," recalls Colton. "He gave me advice on the process of applying to medical school, and he said I needed to understand my motivations in pursuing medicine. He talked about the value of working in an environment before committing to it for the rest of my life. I was so impressed that he took the time to chat with me."

When Colton opted to take a year between graduating and applying to medical school, he decided to apply for a position at the Center that would allow him to work with patients. He especially loved getting to know patients for more extended periods, seeing the positive impacts of treatment, and the feeling that he was positively impacting their lives.  He learned that he especially enjoys working with children and wants to focus on pediatrics or pediatric oncology in the future.

"I've been able to shadow our childhood cancers expert, Dr. Ralph Ermoian, here at the Center, and Dr. Corrie Anderson, one of our anesthesiologists, over at Seattle Children's. Working at the Center has helped me find what I want to do with my life."

Colton has since applied to several medical schools on the west coast. He ideally wants to stay in the Pacific Northwest and give back to his own community. He's awaiting school decisions at this very moment.

William, Colton, and their family are very tight-knit. Colton considers his grandfather to be a mentor, especially when it comes to studying medicine. "He helped open that door for me," says Colton. William, for his part, is very proud of his "kind and high-achieving" grandson. They do a lot of fishing and other outdoor activities together – taking several trips for salmon and halibut each year. William owns a boat that they like to take out cruising in the summer. They share a positive mental attitude of "if you don't use it, you lose it." William considers himself fortunate to have such a great family.

Colton and William enjoy fishing together.

Colton, Colton's girlfriend Sydney, William and Naomi on their boat.

He is willing to speak to potential patients about his proton therapy experience. Please contact April at april.clements@seattleprotons.org if you'd like to talk with William.