Every year, Denise Durgin of McLean, Virginia, gets a mammogram in January as a birthday gift to herself.
In January 2018, her annual mammogram led to a second mammogram and biopsy. On January 31, she received the phone call that she would never forget, telling her she had breast cancer.
Denise and her husband Patrick shared this information with their friends and family. One of their friends suggested proton therapy if she needed radiation treatment. Denise and Patrick had never heard of proton therapy, and they weren’t sure if she would need radiation, so they kept that information in the back of their minds as Denise moved forward with a mastectomy and reconstruction surgery. Afterwards, her surgeon told her she needed radiation.
She met with a radiation oncologist to discuss photon therapy. Toward the end of the meeting with the doctor, Denise and Patrick asked about proton treatment. Although the doctor indicated he felt very comfortable with photon treatment, he encouraged Denise to explore her options, so she scheduled a consultation.
Denise and Patrick met with Michael Eblan, MD, of Inova Health System and the Maryland Proton Treatment Center (MPTC). They had a two hour conversation. She appreciated that protons would spare healthy tissues in her heart and lungs. What really made the difference was seeing an image of the heart comparing proton to photon radiation therapy.
“When I saw the image, it was the first time I didn’t turn to my husband and ask ‘What do you think about this decision?’” Denise recalls, as she and Patrick approached cancer treatment as a team. “I just immediately said ‘I’m doing proton therapy.’”
Denise and Patrick chose to drive 50 miles to and from the center each day. When she first walked into the center she said “I feel like I’m at The Ritz-Carlton!”
She would know, as Denise spent nearly 30 years in sales and marketing in the travel industry, with 25 years at Marriott International and The Ritz-Carlton.
“Everyone at the center is unbelievably warm and caring. They walk by your side and make you feel safe and comforted,” she adds.
During her treatment, she continued to work as an executive coach with her own company that she just launched three months before her diagnosis. After 28 treatments on June 14, 2018, she celebrated her bell ringing with Patrick by her side.
Today she continues to work, follows a healthy diet, exercises, bakes, and cheers for her favorite Boston sports teams. She also loves spending time with her friends, family, husband, four stepdaughters and her two dogs Stella and Stewie. To learn more about her experience, please visit www.protonradiationbuddy.com.
Denise recently wrote a blog post drawing from her experience titled, “What Can Hotels and Healthcare Providers Learn from Each Other?” The post, which was published in The Beryl Institute Guest Blog, states “The moment I walked into the Maryland Proton Treatment Center I felt like a VIP (very important person) guest. I had an excellent experience from the scheduling, to the valet parking, welcome desk, concierge, waiting rooms, radiation technicians, weekly scans and physician appointments; the people were amazing.” To read the blog post, click here.