As his home country hosted the world’s largest sporting spectacle, Bruno Faria found himself watching the games, not in nearby stadium but in another continent in a different hemisphere, facing an Olympic-sized feat of his own.
Nine years ago, just one month after Faria’s 18th birthday, he discovered the cause of nagging headaches that ultimately could not be ignored. Cancer.
The malignant tumor originated in his skull bone, and since diagnosis Faria has endured eight surgeries, two rounds of chemotherapy and one regimen of conventional radiation in Brazil. The first tumor was located behind his eye, he says, but the growths have recurred, moving their way back along the right side of his head.
At first, Faria worked with local doctors in his hometown of Bello Horizonte, located about 200 miles from Rio di Janeiro and 300 miles from Sao Paulo. For his seventh surgery, he sought the expertise of a cancer center in Sao Paulo, where he says it was discovered his type of disease initially had been misdiagnosed and another round of chemo and radiation therapy was recommended.
“In Bello Horizonte, the treatments were for the wrong disease,” he says.
At the A.C. Camargo Cancer Center in Sao Paulo, a physician recommended protons in lieu of another round of conventional radiation.
However, no proton therapy center exists in Brazil, and the doctor “didn’t have connections” to a center overseas, Faria says. “So I decided to look for proton therapy.”
With the help of the internet, Faria put together a list of 14-15 centers and began making calls: “Hi, my name is Bruno, I have a problem.” Provision Center for Proton Therapy was on that list.
Kathleen Steele, patient care coordinator manager at Provision, responded immediately, offering to set up a phone consultation with Medical Director Dr. Marcio Fagundes. Faria, who didn’t realize Fagundes was a native Brazilian, hesitated.
“I was worried about the language barrier over the phone,” he says. “I was just writing her an email to say I didn’t think it was a good idea when there was a phone call. And here was Dr. Fagundes, speaking Portuegese.”
Faria continued to explore his options, checking out proton therapy facilities in Flordia, Texas, Spain and Czechoslovakia. But ultimately, finding a provider with whom he could easily communicate in a foreign country, plus a reasonable cost for treatment led him to choose Provision.
Although Faria had travelled internationally before, he knew nothing of Knoxville except as home of actor and celebrity reality star Johnny Knoxville. But after arriving, he explored downtown, attended a Smokies baseball game, toured Neyland and visited Atlanta. His mother, Deborah, who accompanied him for much of his stay, fell in love with the area, he says.
Provision’s facility and hospitality have also made the extended time away from home a positive experience, he says.
“I am very grateful for all the people who work here, the building, all this,” he says during an interview in the lobby of the proton therapy center, where light spills in through large picture windows and patients pause to greet Faria and his mother. “This is very far from our reality. It brings a lot of comfort. ”
All that made being away from the party at home much easier, Faria says. He had bought soccer tickets in anticipation of the games—a stadium in Bello Horizonte hosted several of the women’s games—and received reports of their effect on daily life from friends and family back home.
But overall, he says, he did not miss much.
“We don’t live there,” Faria says of the Brazil that has been portrayed on international television broadcasts of the Olympic games. “The place we live in is very different than the one that’s shown.”
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