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Mariners Athletic Trainer Receives Prostate Cancer Treatment During COVID-19

Mariners Athletic Trainer Receives Prostate Cancer Treatment During COVID-19

“You have to trust the process.”

This is the mantra Rick Griffin, athletic trainer emeritus for the Seattle Mariners and former head trainer, always shared with players recovering from an injury as he helped them get back to full health and safely return to the field.

When it came to taking his own advice, Rick was ready.

It all started at the beginning of spring training in 2017. A standard physical exam revealed that Rick had elevated prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels—often an indicator of prostate cancer. Throughout spring training, Rick underwent various tests and exams, and on opening day in Arizona, he received the news. He had prostate cancer.

As soon as Rick returned to Seattle, he immediately sought cancer care and successfully underwent prostate cancer surgery. For the next few years, his doctors monitored his PSA levels to ensure they weren’t increasing, which could be a sign of recurring cancer. However, in 2019, Rick’s PSA levels began rising again. He decided to undergo additional radiation treatment to address the increase quickly.

He took charge of his care by researching proton therapy—a highly-targeted form of radiation with the goal of protecting surrounding tissue. Rick felt proton therapy was the best fit because it was associated with fewer short- and long-term effects. His decision was reinforced after meeting a fellow prostate cancer patient who was undergoing a more common form of radiation called photon therapy. The patient shared some adverse side effects he was experiencing and recommended that Rick explore an alternative radiation treatment if possible.

Rick and his care team were eager to move forward with proton therapy at the SCCA Proton Therapy Center in early 2020; however, he was scheduled to begin treatment just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit Washington. After careful consideration, Rick and his care team decided it was best to postpone his treatment a few weeks until April.

The Center took a number of steps to keep its patients safe, including social distancing and universal masking requirements and enhanced cleaning measures across the facility. To limit the number of individuals within the Center, many of its support employees transitioned to work from home, visitors were limited to one per patient, and patient appointments were staggered so that there were only four patients in the Center at any given time. 

Receiving cancer treatment during the pandemic can be daunting, but patients can still safely receive treatment. Rick encourages other cancer patients to monitor their symptoms carefully and to consult with their doctors to make the care decision that’s best for them.

After about eight weeks of 15 to 20-minute treatments, Monday through Friday, Rick wrapped up his proton therapy at the end of June. In addition to trusting the process, he attributes his mental preparedness—a skill he preached to all his players rehabilitating from an injury—in helping him get through the challenge of radiation.  

Rick is feeling healthy and is enjoying the Mariners season, where he assists on special projects as needed, and watches every game. Go Ms!