Alyssa Castro

By proton-admin | May 2, 2019

“I was thrilled to begin proton treatments, which could reduce the side-effects I experienced, improve my long-term health, and potentially lower my risk of developing secondary cancer.”


It’s said that Disney World is the happiest place on earth, and I couldn’t agree more! Since my family moved to Jacksonville several years ago, I’ve made many trips to Disney. I’ve visited each park and ridden countless rides. My favorite park has always been Animal Kingdom because of its wildlife. It’s amazing to see such exotic animals up close and personal.

Ironically, it was while I was at Disney World that I received a call from my insurer, informing me that my access to proton therapy for my Hodgkin’s lymphoma had been denied.

After I was diagnosed with cancer in May 2018, I initially received chemotherapy to treat my cancer but, as a result, my white blood cell count became low. My oncologist gave me the option to finish out my remaining chemo treatments or to pursue radiation. I was so fatigued from chemotherapy and was set on seeking another form of treatment.

I looked into traditional radiation and learned that, if I pursued that treatment, there was a risk that I could be diagnosed with breast cancer down the road. That absolutely terrified me. In the midst of my search, a dear friend I met through chemo introduced me to proton therapy. She told me, “Before you proceed with radiation, you absolutely have to check out Ackerman Cancer Center.” I took her advice and met with the Ackerman team in Jacksonville.

In considering my best treatment option, the Ackerman staff valued my quality of life above all else. The team recommended proton therapy for me, and I was on board. I was thrilled to begin proton treatments, which could reduce the side-effects I experienced, improve my long-term health, and potentially lower my risk of developing secondary cancer.

As you can imagine, I was deeply upset when my access to proton therapy was denied. At 25 years old, I did not want to settle for a less-precise treatment and expose myself to potential risks.

Ackerman offered to cover the cost of my proton treatment. This signified how critical and life-changing proton therapy is, especially for a young adult cancer patient like me. The Ackerman team also worked hard to appeal my denial. My oncologist was able to convince my insurance company of the treatment’s medical necessity, and I was approved.

Beyond treatment, my day-to-day life remained normal. The only side-effect I experienced was fatigue. But I was still able to keep my full-time job.

I was the 1,000th patient to complete treatment at Ackerman Cancer Center. I’m amazed by Ackerman. Its therapy and support were instrumental in my journey. The team has built is an incredible experience for any cancer patient.

Now that I’m cancer-free, I am excited to engage with other cancer patients and am humbled to be chosen to share my experience with others.

Check out Alyssa’s YouTube channel — the Persevering Princess — to learn more about her journey!