Former superintendent on mend from cancer
When Wayne Carr found out he had prostate cancer in January, he says he felt as if he had been shot. Carr, who worked for the Eureka Springs School District for almost eight years before retiring, described the mental block he felt after receiving the diagnosis.
"It was kind of like being in the war zone. You get shot at and you panic and then you're like, 'We have to deal with this,' " Carr said.
Carr spoke with his wife, Shalia Carr, and the two decided how to deal with it. They chose to stay in Oklahoma City to have better access to ProCure Proton Therapy Center, a medical center that focuses on proton treatment. Eight months after his initial diagnoses, Carr has returned home with an 85 percent chance of survival.
He credited his survival chances to proton treatment. Proton treatment is a therapy for prostate cancer the uses a focused ray of proton particles to destroy cancerous tissues. Because the treatment targets cancer cells with precise, high doses of radiation without damaging healthy tissue, Carr said he has experienced fewer side effects than he would have using other treatments.
"We chose proton because they can focus it. They can narrow it down, keep it on target and you have less collateral damage," Carr said.
Carr said he was aware that he had a chance of having prostate cancer in early 2014, saying his prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels were beginning to rise around that time. As his PSA levels continued to rise, Carr decided to get a biopsy.
The biopsy showed he had prostate cancer, so he and his wife began researching possible treatments. They made up their minds after receiving a book from a proton therapist at ProCure Proton Therapy Center.
"It was difficult to make a decision, but once we did it we had a little tension relieved," Carr said.
Seven weeks after Carr received a hormone shot to stop the growth of cancerous cells, he and his wife temporarily moved to Oklahoma City. Carr underwent one treatment a day for five days a week, amounting to 44 treatments when he was done. The radiation, he said, wasn't very uncomfortable at all.
"It lasted about five minutes a day. It was a lot of work to get set up, but it was routine. It wasn't bad," Carr sad.
To pass the time between treatments, the Carrs befriended other families undergoing similar treatments. They also took in the sights in Oklahoma City, trying to do something touristy every day.
"We made it a radiation vacation," Shalia Carr said.
She remembered interacting with other families, saying the group bonded immediately. On Tuesday nights, she said, ProCure sponsored an event allowing patients and their families to eat at a specific restaurant for lunch or dinner.
During these meals, Shalia Carr remembered, she and her husband spoke with people they didn't get to see at the facility. She noted that these people were from both the United States and the United Kingdom.
"They learned some of our culture and we learned some of theirs. It was just an automatic bond. I told them all, 'This is a God thing. We were brought here for a reason,' " Shalia Carr said.
Every morning, she said, the women would sit around a table waiting for their husbands to return from treatment. Shalia Carr pointed out that, because of their illness, the men discussed topics most men rarely discuss.
"We did a lot of laughing and discussing and talking.We had a relationship that will last because of this bad that brought good," Shalia Carr said.
She thanked the staff at ProCure for making those relationships possible. During their time at ProCure, she said, she and her husband never encountered one bad attitude.
"The people at ProCure are phenomenal. Everybody was laughing and smiling," Shalia Carr said.
Through it all, Wayne Carr said, he and his wife relied on having a positive attitude.
"I don't think we ever got down. We had a good time while we were there," Carr said.
Shalia Carr agreed, recalling their days of touring Oklahoma City. Prostate cancer, she said, is no match for her and her husband.
"We kicked it in the butt, and we had fun kicking it in the butt. We took care of business every morning and had fun the rest of the time," Shalia Carr said.
If he could do anything different, Carr said he would have had a biopsy much earlier. He urged other men to get a physical annually. An annual physical, he said, could save a life.