Tom Garrett

By proton-admin | October 26, 2018

“For me, proton therapy meant that I wouldn’t have to give up on my passion and would avoid many of the side effects that are common with traditional radiation.”

Singing is one of my greatest passions.

As the lead singer of The Classics IV, I perform regularly, singing such hits as “Stormy,” “Spooky,” and “Traces (of Love)” to audiences around the world. Since joining the band in 2007, I have traveled from Las Vegas to the Philippines and many place along the way. Most recently, I performed in Lakewood, New Jersey, keeping the legacy of our of ’60s pop group alive.

But in March 2016, I was diagnosed with throat cancer. A tumor threatened to rob me of my gift and profession. The thought of this possibility terrified me. I’ve been a singer my entire life and to have that pulled out from underneath me was something that I wasn’t prepared to face.

Initially, doctors recommended that I undergo surgery, followed by traditional radiation and potentially chemotherapy to treat my tumor. The surgery along with traditional radiation would have left me battling a lifetime of side effects—including a severe speech impediment—that could have ended my career. When the gravity of this diagnosis and treatment fully registered with me, I immediately began looking for another option.

That’s when a Google search led me to Northwestern Medicine to learn about proton therapy. Unlike standard radiation that uses photons, proton therapy allows physicians to precisely target the bulk of its cancer-fighting proton energy on the cancerous cells, minimizing extraneous radiation dose to healthy tissues, preserving organ function, and potentially reducing harmful side effects. For me, proton therapy meant that I wouldn’t have to give up on my passion and would avoid many of the side effects that are common with traditional radiation.

I soon met with the cancer care team at Northwestern and was struck by their positivity. One radiation oncologist, in particular, expressed his belief that my cancer could be beaten and that proton therapy would have me back on stage in no time. This visit sealed the deal for me; I began proton therapy treatment at Northwestern shortly thereafter.

By July 2016, I had received 33 rounds of treatment and was relieved to learn that I was finally cancer free.

Eight weeks after my final proton therapy treatment, I reunited with The Classics IV for a show in Las Vegas. That performance was gut-wrenching. I was there with my bandmates, we’re family. I was able to walk out on the stage, address the audience, and share my story with them. During the show, I took the time to thank my oncologist and the cancer care team at Northwestern, attributing my survival to them.

The Classics IV continues to delight and entertain audiences across the country. Thanks to proton therapy, I was able to return to the stage and perform for fans.

Finding proton therapy was a miracle. I am blessed to be able to now tell my story. This was truly the journey of a lifetime and I’d recommend that anyone at least take a shot and see what proton therapy does for them.