A Mother's Breast Cancer Story

A mother's breast cancer story. My name is Erin Hines. I am 41 years old, and I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in April 2022 at the age of 40.

Friday, January 13th 2023, 3:51 pm

By: News 9

Breast Cancer – From A Mother’s Perspective

My name is Erin Hines. I am 41 years old, and I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in April 2022 at the age of 40.

When you get diagnosed with cancer, you are suddenly thrown into a world you never thought you would be in, or at least not at the age of 40. This world of fast learning, fast decisions, tests, more tests, more decisions, lots of waiting, surgery, and treatment plans, while the rest of the world keeps going, can be a lot.

What I loved and didn’t know I would find and didn’t know I even needed was EXACTLY what I found at the Oklahoma Proton Center.

Yes, treatment plans, wonderful staff, radiation therapists, and doctors who cared about me. But more than all that, I always found a friendly “Hello!” Radiation therapists, with fun discussions each week about “Waffle Wednesdays” and “Tell a Joke Tuesdays,” made it doable.

“How are you feeling today” ...when they could tell I wasn’t feeling my best. And a “Let’s turn your music up today” to help distract me from the pain. A puzzle table, a welcome new patient luncheon, and friendly conversation in the lobby created a community of hope.

Erin’s diagnosis was difficult for her, but also on her husband and daughters.

“Nobody wants to hear they have cancer. The diagnosis was debilitating in the beginning,” recalls Erin’s husband Pody. “It was hard for me to see the person I love going through the pain and uncertainty something like this brings.”

“I was nervous that something could go wrong,” said Erin’s oldest daughter. “But I knew there were good doctors at the Proton Center so that made it less scary than I thought it would be.”

Her family became her greatest support system through the process, with her daughters doing everything they could to help.

“We knew we needed to be strong for Mom. Even just doing little things like helping around the house or getting our homework done without being asked. Loading the dishes in the dishwasher. Keeping our rooms picked up. Little things like that. And being positive even when Mom was down.”

Breast Cancer and Proton Therapy

Approximately one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. Treatment can include chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation. With radiation, the goal is to focus as much radiation on the tumor and reduce or eliminate radiation the critical structures such as the heart. This was important to Erin.

“I was especially concerned about radiation to the heart because my cancer was on the left side. I knew I needed to be thinking about potential long term health complications from treatment which is why proton therapy was the obvious option for me.”

Proton therapy can help lower the risk of excess radiation because protons can be stopped inside the tumor. Proton therapy may be especially beneficial for breast cancer patients by minimizing damage to nearby tissue and critical organs, such as the heart and lungs.

With less radiation to healthy tissue, the risk of side effects is also lowered, including reducing the chance of experiencing a cardiac event or developing lung cancer or pneumonitis. Due to the painless and noninvasive nature of proton therapy treatment, you can get back to your daily activities quicker and maintain the same quality of life. 

"Breast cancer survival rates have increased, but there are still side effect risks with treatment. This includes severe heart complications from radiation exposure,” said Dr. John Chang, Medical Director of the Oklahoma Proton Center, and a leading expert in the field of radiation oncology.

“Studies show that Proton therapy can reduce radiation to the heart for breast cancer patients up to 96% and reduce the risk of 2nd cancers by 38% versus other forms of treatment. For this reason, I often recommend proton therapy for breast cancer,"

For patients interested in learning more about proton therapy for cancer, Dr. John Chang recommends reaching out to the team at Oklahoma Proton Center.

“We have successfully treated thousands of patients with protons since the center opened in 2009. We encourage any patient or family member with questions to reach out to our team. We can provide an initial clinical review of a case within a few days and provide a recommendation on whether proton therapy is an option worth considering.”

Hopeful for the future

With the support of her family and help from the staff and doctors at the proton center, Erin is optimistic about the future.

“I felt a genuine and honest desire to help me beat cancer so I could keep living and loving on our precious twin girls, husband, and family. My time at the Oklahoma Proton Center wasn’t always easy, but it was ALWAYS the best and perfect place for me. I know we can do hard things and we can get through it.”

For more information about proton therapy or to schedule a time to speak with a doctor, call Oklahoma Proton Center at (405) 773 – 6700 or visit their website at www.okcproton.com.


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