For most people, cancer treatment is a daunting, emotionally overwhelming experience. Doug Walsh was determined to make the best of it. And try to bring a little light to his fellow patients.
Doug tells us the first thing he did when he came to Mayo Clinic's Arizona campus for prostate cancer treatment was to go out of his way to "liven the place up" a bit. The proton beam therapy facility, which became a virtual second home for Doug, was, well, different when he showed up. "I'd say I brought an unusual sense of humor to the room," Doug tells us. "For however long I was there each week, I just stirred the pot."
Mostly, by doing whatever he could to make those around him laugh. "I'd walk into the treatment room every day and make some kind of comment," Doug says. "The first day, I walked in and said, 'Is this where you get on the bus to go Christmas shopping?' And the room just lit up. All of a sudden, everybody's laughing and talking to each other."
After 42 rounds of treatment, Doug's banter and "constant needling" of his care team had made the retired airline pilot a fan-favorite at the proton beam facility. So when his care team found out Doug was planning to wear a Scottish kilt to his end-of-treatment bell-ringing in honor of his Scottish heritage, they decided to do him one better. They arranged to have a formally dressed bagpiper add to the celebration with a stirring rendition of "Amazing Grace."
"Having the bagpiper there was absolutely stunning," Doug tells us. "It was about the grandest thing anybody's ever done for me."
But it was not the only grand moment of the day. Before he rang the bell to mark the successful end of his cancer treatments, Doug regaled the standing-room-only crowd with tales of what they mean to him and what he'll remember most. It was a heartfelt address that concluded with Doug asking his ex-wife, Pam, to re-marry him. Yes, right there on the spot. "We reconnected after I got sick, and she was with me every step of the way at Mayo Clinic," Doug says of his now ex-ex, Pam. "After she said yes, I rang the bell." And, we imagine, rode off into the sunset to a Celtic tune.
Watch Doug's proposal unfold for yourself.
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Tags: Mayo Clinic in Arizona, Patient Stories, prostate cancer, Proton Beam Therapy
Thank you for such a well-written article and for honoring one of the many kindhearted patients who walk through the department of radiation oncology. – Rosie Patient Experience Coordinator
I read this article with a smile and with a tear. After much anguish with issues in our area's medical care my husband and I made the 8 hr trip to the Mayo Clinic. There we learned that he had stage 4 metastized prostrate cancer. He began trial treatment as there were very little options for stage 4. We knew this was only going to buy us time. The medication and treatment w Lupron helped for several months. Then the cancer spread again and he did chemo. He passed away 3 years ago. I am so hopeful that this proton beam therapy will be the answer that many more people need. With more doctors taking PSA tests more serious and treatments more available let's hope we can put this cancer off of the map. Wonderful news for the new Mr. & Mrs. Walsh.