Summer of Protons

  • 5 minute read.
Kevin Murphy is now cancer free after receiving proton therapy at Thompson Proton Center in Knoxville, TN.
Kevin Murphy, retired business man and NC resident, is now cancer-free, thanks to proton therapy.

Retired Business Man on His Way to Being Cancer-Free After Treatment at Thompson Proton Center

Kevin Murphy, a retired hotel and travel executive, spent time traveling between Knoxville and his North Carolina home during summer 2022, which he coins, “The Summer of the Protons.”

After receiving proton therapy at Thompson Proton Center for prostate cancer, Murphy is feeling great. He is an active volunteer in his community and enjoys tennis, golf and pickleball.

Prostate Cancer Diagnosis

Prostate cancer can cause specific agents in the blood levels to rise, so men will often get a blood test called a Prostate-Specific Antigen test, or PSA test. During a routine physical, Murphy’s primary care doctor discovered his PSA levels had doubled since the previous year. He was referred to a urologist, who ordered diagnostic testing that confirmed Murphy had prostate cancer.

Determining Next Steps

Murphy says, “The urologist explained my options, which were surgical removal of the prostate, conventional radiation, proton therapy, or do nothing, which they call “watch and wait.” I didn’t want to not do anything, so I pursued the proton therapy options.”

The retiree had two friends who both received treatment at Thompson Proton Center in Knoxville, so when he was presented with his options, he knew where he wanted to go.

Murphy was treated by Ryan Grover, MD, radiation oncologist at Thompson Proton Center. Dr. Grover prescribed Murphy proton therapy treatments to be delivered five days a week over the course of several weeks. At a healthy age of 69, Murphy decided to drive the two-hour trek from Waynesville, North Carolina to Knoxville, Tennessee three days per week, and stayed overnight for two nights per week.

Dr. Grover says “Mr. Murphy had a great attitude and was a pleasure to work with. His treatment went very well.”

Reflecting on the connections he develops with patients, Dr. Grover shares, “I enjoy spending time with the patients, whether it’s for a one-hour consult, seeing them through treatment over many weeks, or following up with them for many years.” During the consult I have a lot of time to explain what their options are and what we are recommending. If protons are right for them, I can show them what we need to treat and how protons can help. The relationships formed with patients during this time is very rewarding, and I love being able to give patients good news when they come back for their follow up visits.”

I Want to Be Cancer-Free

Murphy shares that the first thought he had upon receiving the cancer diagnosis was, “It can’t be me.”

“I kept thinking about my dad. He didn’t get his cancer treated before he passed away; I decided to get mine treated. I’m looking forward to getting cured and being cancer-free to live a longer life. The thought that I kept focusing on was, ‘when this is over, I’ll be cancer-free.’”

Compassionate Care

Everyone I dealt with, from the front desk staff and Dr. Grover and his team, couldn’t have been nicer,” Murphy shares. “When you walk into the facility, it’s a beautiful lobby, and they have water and coffee and a candy dish. When I would leave to drive home on Fridays, the staff didn’t miss an opportunity to wish me a good weekend or a nice day. They were very accommodating. They made me comfortable in an uncomfortable situation.

Dr. Grover has been working with proton therapy since 2002. “At Thompson Proton Center, there are staff members who see the patients, but there’s also a whole team working behind the scenes,” Dr. Grover explains. “Most importantly, they are all top-notch. They regard patient safety as their highest priority, double check everything, and implement multiple layers of checks and balances. Not only are the staff good at their jobs, they are genuinely nice people. It all makes the Thompson Proton Center a great place to be, whether you’re an employee, or a patient.”

Patient Kevin Murphy poses with Thompson Proton Center's Victory Bell upon completing his cancer treatment at Thompson Proton Center.
Kevin poses with Thompson Proton Center’s Victory Bell, which patients ring upon completing their treatment.


“I was eager to get started, but I knew I had to be patient throughout this time,” Murphy says. “I just wanted to get my first beam! The first time you get the beam, you start counting. I had 39, now I only have 38 left…Now that it’s behind me, it was over in the blink of an eye.”

Murphy’s treatment began in June 2022 and on August 2, he got to ring the bell, signifying his last day of treatment. He commends the Center on its incredible staff, whom he says made him feel comfortable in an uncomfortable situation.

In a few months, his doctors will check his PSA levels with lab work to verify to treatment is working as expected. He says others who have undergone proton therapy have all had good outcomes, so he is hopeful and motivated to say that he is “cancer-free.”

Prostate-Specific Antigen tests are recommended annually for men above age 50 or as early as age 40 if you have a family history of prostate cancer. For more information about Proton Therapy, visit

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