The Internet helped Tulsa resident Jack Holloway find his true love and a healthier life. The first time it brought him his soul mate, and later it brought him to the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center, where he would undergo treatment for prostate cancer.
During a relatively minor procedure, Jack’s urologist suggested a routine biopsy due to a history of prostate cancer in his family—Jack’s father and grandfather both had it. Ten days later, Jack, 50, had a confirmed diagnosis of prostate cancer.
“My diagnosis was a shock, but it heightened the awareness of the presence of prostate cancer in the family,” said Jack.
With his long-time girlfriend, Gwen Darling, by his side, Jack ordered a stack of books on prostate cancer and Gwen went online. The couple also spoke to other prostate cancer patients, and from them, learned about proton therapy, an advanced type of radiation treatment that uses a beam of protons to irradiate – or deliver radiation – directly to the tumor, destroying cancer cells while sparing surrounding healthy tissue and other critical areas or vital organs.
Further research on the treatment option led Jack and Gwen to the MD Anderson website, where they found the Proton Therapy Center.
“On our first visit to Houston we discovered that MD Anderson is a complete care center. The staff and doctors there didn’t start by asking me questions about my insurance - they asked me about my health,” said Jack.
After meeting Dr. Seungtaek Choi, an assistant professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology, a treatment plan was set and Jack and Gwen made the move to Houston.
“Proton therapy is an excellent treatment option for men with prostate cancer,” explained Dr. Choi. “It allows us to precisely target the cancer while avoiding some of the more sensitive areas around it. Most patients tolerate the treatment very well, even working or maintaining their lifestyle throughout treatment and following it.”
While Jack was at the Proton Therapy Center, he and Gwen formed friendships with the other prostate patients and their families that eventually led to hosting weekly dinners. Jack was known around the Proton Therapy Center for taking the “rookies,” as he called the new prostate patients, under his wing. He encouraged them to be their own best advocate and talk about their issues.
While in Houston together, the couple also had a wedding to plan. Until Jack’s diagnosis, Gwen lived in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and the couple would see each other every weekend. The discovery of cancer made Jack realize how precious time is, and he decided he couldn’t waste anymore of it. It was then that he proposed to Gwen.
For Jack and Gwen, Jack’s diagnosis is something they feel affects both people in the relationship, and with Jack’s young age, the possible side effects of treatment weighed heavy on their mind as they discussed what route to take. The couple feels strongly that issues such as the risk of impotence should be talked about openly between partners rather than shying away from it.
“People always associate prostate cancer as being an older man’s disease,” says Gwen. “But that’s not always the case, and it’s important for all couples, not just the younger ones, to talk openly about the issues that could affect the intimacy of the relationship.”
Now that he has completed his cancer treatment, Jack and Gwen are back in Tulsa, having just celebrated their wedding — a union they’ve waited a lifetime for. “We were meant to be together,” Jack said. “It just took us 50 years to find each other and was certainly worth the wait.”
Just hours before they said “I do,” Jack and Gwen, along with 30 of their wedding guests, participated in the 29th annual Tulsa St. Patrick’s Day 5K Run, which benefits the Special Olympics. For the Holloways, this year marked the 20th year that the family has participated in the race. It was a celebration of love and life.