Agent Orange aftermath
While serving in the U. S. Army during the Vietnam War, Curtis Courington became exposed to the chemical herbicide — Agent Orange. This herbicide caused numerous health problems that are affecting veterans today. Some of these health problems include Hodgkin’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, diabetes and even prostate cancer.
As a result, Curtis was at a higher risk of developing prostate cancer so he had to closely monitor his health by visiting the doctor every six months to complete blood work. In 2015, his PSA (Prostate-specific Antigen) levels began to elevate and his doctors completed a biopsy that confirmed Curtis had prostate cancer.
After doing his own research, Curtis decided he would choose proton therapy rather than conventional radiation. Proton therapy would be able to precisely target his tumor and spare nearby organs such as his bladder. Additionally, proton therapy would have fewer side effects. “There was no downtime which was a better fit for me. Proton therapy was much easier and a much safer way to go,” Curtis said.
For Curtis this meant being able to go in the morning for treatment and then head to the golf course in the afternoon.
From Virginia to Houston
Curtis began treatment at the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center in January 2017 and completed a total of 15 treatments. Being away from his home in Richmond, Virginia, it was important to have support not only from his family, but others as well. “When I arrived at 5 a.m., it was nice to see all the staff smiling and be welcoming,” Curtis said. “Everyone at the MD Anderson organization lifts your spirits which really helps during treatment.”
Curtis and his wife enjoyed Houston so much during their stay that they decided to move to the city. They loved the convenience of being able to walk to the grocery store and numerous restaurants. Even more they enjoyed the diversity of the city and the variety of recreational activities they could partake in such as cheering on the local professional baseball and basketball teams. “We love Texas,” Curtis shared. “Also, we wanted to be close to our daughter and grandchildren so moving here was an easy decision.”
Giving back to fellow proton patients
Curtis decided he wanted to offer support to others who perhaps didn’t have family in Houston so he decided to join the support group ProtonPals. The support group offers current patients the opportunity to meet other patients and share their experiences while enjoying a lunch or dinner at a local restaurant. “I talked to so many people when I was having treatment that were not from Houston and could use support,” Curtis explained. “So I decided I wanted to be part of it.” Now, Curtis and his wife of 25 years, Judy, help host weekly lunches and dinners for the ProtonPals support group.
Today, the retired barber, Curtis, loves spending time with his grandchildren and going on a yearly trip to Aruba with his wife, Judy.