Oncology nurse supports her husband through prostate cancer treatment with proton therapy

Cheryl Wyman and Terry Wyman sitting on a bench
Cheryl Wyman (L) and Terry Wyman

In December of 2020, Terry Wyman, who is currently 73 years old and considered part of a high-risk age group for prostate cancer, received a Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test during his annual check-up. His doctor had noted Terry had elevated PSA levels, a potential indicator of prostate cancer. His wife Cheryl recalls their doctor had informed the couple via Zoom that after a biopsy of his prostate, he was officially diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Having caught the prostate cancer in such early stages, Terry had the option to wait and monitor his PSA levels or seek treatment. Needle biopsies showed that the cancer was only present in a few nodes, and he would be able to safely monitor his levels while maintaining his routine. But Terry made up his mind quickly on what he wanted to do.

“I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to do something about this. I’m not going to sit around and wait for it to get worse. I’m going to be proactive,’ even though it was pretty safe,” said Terry.

Terry described the months after his diagnosis as an “aggressive research period” into different forms of treatment, radiation and surgery. But he wasn’t alone. Cheryl, before her recent retirement, spent over 45 years as an oncology nurse with the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA).

Cheryl recalls, “My first reaction was ‘Oh my gosh, this is not what we want to hear’. Then my immediate second reaction was we need to focus on advocating for Terry and finding the best form of treatment for his situation.”

For two months, Cheryl contacted multiple oncologists across the greater Seattle area whom she had made connections with through her work in cancer care. The couple wanted multiple opinions on the best treatment for Terry’s case. During their research, Terry and Cheryl filled a whole notebook of information on potential side effects, survival rates and other relevant information on surgery and various methods of treatment.

Terry and Cheryl emphasized how important it was to gather as much research as possible and make the right choice on treatment. Terry’s mother had breast cancer, and while her cancer never returned after her treatment, she faced side effects that impacted her recovery and continued to adversely affect her daily life for years after. He acknowledges that there have been many advancements in cancer care since his mother had breast cancer, but still thinks experiencing his mother’s difficult recovery played a huge role in making his decision.

He knew that in his case, surgery was not necessary, but landed on proton therapy treatment due to the history of minimal side effects, which was true for Terry in his experience. Terry and Cheryl’s family and friends supported the couple’s decision and helped ease the trek to the SCCA Proton Therapy Center (now Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center) in Seattle.  This included Terry spending a portion of the time with his brother-and-sister-in-law to lessen his commute to and from Cle Elum to Seattle for daily treatments over nine weeks.

The couple noted they also received plenty of support from Terry’s oncologist, Dr. Jonathan Chen, the medical physicists and all the staff at Fred Hutch, all of whom made the entire treatment experience as seamless as possible. Terry was aware that due to the stage of his prostate cancer, his chances of survival and beating it were very high, but the reassurance of the staff was still impactful for the couple.

Terry also noted a very special individual that he met early on during his treatment that inspired him to persevere. A 5-year-old pediatric patient had approached Terry in the lobby while in his second week of treatment. She was starting radiation treatment after having recently completed chemotherapy; Terry noticed she also had a feeding tube and a scar from a recent surgery. She approached Terry with a sunny disposition and a simple question, “Are you having a good day today?”

Terry, a grandfather of four, said he thought of her throughout his treatment. Her simple question inspired Terry to always remain optimistic, despite the circumstances. Their chance encounter is the standout moment that Terry recalls fondly. His treatment at the Fred Hutch was completed in May 2021 and he is still maintaining regular check-ups with his care team, as necessary.

While they are now retired, Cheryl spent 45 years as an oncology nurse with SCCA and Terry owned and ran multiple software companies before retirement. They love spending time with their two children and four grandchildren. The Wyman’s now split their time between their lakeside home just outside Troy, Montana and their home in Cle Elum, Washington.

Today, Terry and Cheryl are enjoying retirement and living life to the fullest. Terry enjoys spending time outdoors whether it be fly fishing or gardening. The Wyman’s recently completed a 6-week, 5,000-mile road trip earlier this year and are excited to continue exploring parts of the country that have yet to visit. They are also looking forward to hosting their family and friends at their cabin by the lake in Montana this summer.

For fellow prostate cancer patients looking into treatment options, Terry encourages them to listen and learn from other experiences, but ultimately pick the treatment option that is best for them. Terry emphasized that feeling confident about his informed decision empowered him and set a strong foundation for his mindset during treatment.

Note: On April 1, 2022, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance became Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, a single, independent, nonprofit organization that is also a clinically integrated part of UW Medicine and UW Medicine’s cancer program. Read more about the restructure.

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