Ryan Scott, the first NHS Wales proton therapy patient, hopes hundreds more people will get the chance to have the groundbreaking treatment.
The first person in Wales to be given proton therapy on the NHS has said he had never heard of the groundbreaking treatment until after he was diagnosed with a brain tumour last year.
Ryan Scott, 23, from Llechryd in Ceredigion, told i he was expecting to go to the US for an eight week course of proton therapy until the health service stepped in.
Speaking during the official opening of the Rutherford Cancer Centre in Newport yesterday, Mr Scott said it was “a privilege” to be the first publicly funded proton therapy patient in his country and hoped hundreds more cancer patients will be saved from arduous trips abroad and treated closer to home instead.
Mr Scott first started noticing headaches and “really bad” neck pains around a year ago, which soon began occurring daily.
“My auntie, who’s a nurse, told my mum she wasn’t happy so we went to A&E at Haverfordwest. At first they thought it was just a virus, but they sent me for an MRI and they found a tumour in my brain. I knew something was coming but I wasn’t expecting that. I was obviously scared when I heard and my family were shocked… but it was just a hurdle we had to tackle together, I suppose.”
Later that day Mr Scott was sent to University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff where he had three major operations over the next month. He suffered seizures in between operations as surgeons were not able to remove all of the tumour at first, and also needed fluid to be drained from his brain.
Due to “a little bit” of the tumour remaining, Mr Scott’s specialist recommended he undergo proton therapy treatment – a specialist form of radiotherapy that targets certain cancers very precisely which was just being introduced into Wales. He was initially told the NHS could refer him for treatment to the United States until the Rutherford, a private clinic which accepts NHS referrals, stepped in.
Mr Scott admitted being nervous at the outset, but said his care team were soon able to put his mind at ease. “It was a walk in the park after that,” he said. “It only takes about five minutes each session, once you’re in position. The only noise I could hear when they actually deliver the protons weirdly sounded like a printer. It was strange. No pain at all though, which was amazing.”
After 30 treatment sessions at the Rutherford over six weeks Mr Scott, the youngest of four brothers, said he feels almost back to normal.
“I’ve got a check up in about three weeks [but] I feel completely different already: more energy, obviously still tired but that’s down to everything else as well.”
Having been confined to home for a year away from his job working for the family timber frame business he is itching to spend more time outdoors again. “I’m getting out and try and build my energy up, slowly, as I don’t want to tire myself out too much. I just try and do as much as I can.
“I was shocked to hear I was the first NHS Wales patient, but I just hope proton therapy works for anyone else who has to go through the same thing.”
Photo: Huw John