“I like to tell my story,” said 12-year-old Wendy Anthony as she described how she made friends with other cancer patients at the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. “I introduce myself and ask if they would like to go to the art table,” she explained. She got to know the other patients by sharing her story with them about being treated for a rare brain tumor called craniopharyngioma, “I tell them I had surgery. Surgery. Treatment.” And she asked them about their cancer story.
Because of her positive and friendly attitude, she touched the hearts and minds of other cancer patients on treatment and befriended many of them -- men, women and children. She decided to congratulate her friends when they “graduated” from treatment and made a personalized poster complete with drawings, pictures and words of encouragement. “We’d like to do it for everyone,” said her father David Anthony. “With so many graduates, it’s hard to do them all. We are making them for people who have touched our lives while we’ve been here.”
It started with a warm and welcoming greeting by a prostate cancer patient they met at the gym at Third and Main, the nearby apartment complex that houses many of the proton therapy patients. “He was the first person who greeted us, who told us what a great place we were in and made us feel comfortable,” said David. As they met more patients, the circle of friends grew. “We met a lot of inspiring people, but Wendy’s been the biggest inspiration to me,” said David. He said that all the prostate guys were super generous and kind to Wendy. She helped them deal with their cancer diagnosis by seeing how bravely she handled hers.
“It’s just a great atmosphere that allows the best of people to come out,” said David describing the proton therapy institute. “I attribute that to UFHPTI. All the staff members are so positive it’s infectious.”
Wendy offered some advice for people to make their proton treatments go better, “I just go with the flow and do what the doctors say you have to do.” She said by concentrating on that, you don’t have to worry.