A Finished Chapter
Retired from their careers as speech pathologists and audiologists, Terry and Harriet Thies enjoyed traveling. Terry’s physician had been monitoring his PSA levels for more than ten years. His levels had been high, but five biopsies had returned with no sign of prostate cancer.
In 2006, Terry underwent another biopsy. The couple had just arrived in Hawaii for vacation when Terry’s physician called with the results. “The biopsy revealed you have prostate cancer,” he shared. “You have a Gleason Score of 9, which means the prostate cancer is very aggressive,” he continued to explain. “I was expecting at some point to receive a diagnosis of prostate cancer,” Terry says. “I just never expected it to be aggressive. It was unnerving.”
Under the guidance of his medical oncologist in California, Terry began hormone therapy to shrink the prostate cancer. While undergoing this yearlong protocol, he began researching the second stage of his treatment. He arranged interviews with specialists all around the country who treat prostate cancer. “I wanted the best,” he admits.
That was how he met Patrick Kupelian, MD, radiation oncologist with MD Anderson Cancer Center Orlando. “Dr. Kupelian came very highly recommended by other physicians and the men he has treated.”
Though his home was in California, Terry chose the eight-week treatment plan presented by Dr. Kupelian. The couple recalled Dr. Kupelian mentioning a place called the Hubbard House where they could stay; however, they envisioned that the house may be filled with very ill people and it might be a depressing environment. When they arrived and saw the Hubbard House, their plans to rent an apartment quickly changed. “We took one look at the Victorian home, met the people, and saw how close it was to MD Anderson - Orlando, and knew we would stay,” they share.
For eight weeks, Terry walked to his six-minute radiation treatment. “Dr. Kupelian used tomotherapy – a guided radiation – at higher levels than were used even two years ago,” Terry shares. When he was not in treatment, he worked on writing a book on the history of his hometown in Iowa. In the afternoons, he and his wife explored Orlando. “We really enjoyed what we found,” Harriet shares.
“By staying at the Hubbard House, we developed relationships with others going through similar circumstances,” Harriet shares. Terry met a man staying across the hall who was also being treated for prostate cancer by Dr. Kupelian with tomotherapy. “He was halfway finished with his treatment and doing well when we met,” Terry shares. They quickly became friends.
The Hubbard House eliminated long travel times for the daily appointments, provided for their meals, and surrounded them with people. “We were closer to the hospital and the hospital environment,” Harriet notes, “but that allowed us to think about it less.”
As Terry and Harriet walked to MD Anderson – Orlando for his final treatment, Harriet had her pom-poms, presents and a camera. She was going to celebrate. Terry cautioned his wife, “Don’t expect that the radiation team will ring the bell with me – they are busy.” But as Terry finished his last treatment, his radiation team surrounded him as he rang the bell in MD Anderson - Orlando fashion.
With his graduation certificate in hand, Terry and Harriet headed home – to the Hubbard House – before packing their bags for California. His book was complete, and this chapter of his own journey was finished.