A big-hearted pony named Bouncer and his equally big-hearted owner Wayne Humphreys had lots of love to give — in the form of carriage rides — to pediatric patients and their parents. In return, the children gave extra treats and affection to Bouncer and a positive boost to fellow patient Wayne. “When you’re in a strange place for eight, nine, 10 weeks, to reach out to people is so important,” said Wayne. “It was equally good for me as them.”
Wayne, a retired U.S. Navy Captain who lives in Virginia and in the past had wintered in Florida, was at the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute for prostate cancer treatment last fall. His network of Naval Academy alumni, 1964 Cares, pointed him in the direction of proton therapy. A good friend in the group, a retired orthopedic surgeon, told him he needed to look into proton therapy and sent him a list of all the proton therapy facilities in the U.S.
Wayne was encouraged when he saw UF on the list. His late wife Sybil Humphreys and a good friend from Kentucky both had received excellent care at UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville. He contacted the Proton Therapy Institute and within a day or two had a packet of information. He said the first contact with the intake department re-emphasized his resolve to have proton therapy at the facility.
“It’s not enough to have world-class facilities, you have to have world-class patient services,” said Wayne. “I had high expectations and my expectations were exceeded.”
Wayne stayed at 3rd and Main apartments while in Jacksonville for proton therapy. He brought his pony and three dogs. The pony stayed at Skyway Farm about 15 minutes from the Institute. “I was going out about four or five times a week to drive Bouncer. Most of my appointments were in the early morning so you had all the rest of the day to do things.” All during treatment he felt well enough to carry on his normal activities. He participated in the lunches and dinners arranged by patient services director Bradlee Robbert and other activities with fellow patients. “You see the kids and how going through cancer breaks their hearts. One day I thought, ‘Gee, I could give them rides in the carriage,’” said Wayne.
The first child who rode on the carriage was Wendy Anthony, a 12-year-old girl from Canada having proton therapy for a brain tumor. She and her father, Dave, had become good friends with Wayne as neighbors at 3rd and Main and as fellow patients. She encouraged the other children at the Institute to give it a try, and gradually over the next four weeks up to six children would drive out to Skyway Farm twice a week to visit with Bouncer and go for a ride in the carriage.
“One day there were six or seven children there. I gave them a few lessons explaining the do's and dont's of handling horses,” said Wayne. “Then I told them about Bouncer’s accomplishments. Bouncer is the first U.S. horse or pony to win a Gold medal in international combined driving competition when he won in England in 2005. He was the smallest pony in the competition. Bouncer won because he had the biggest heart and he set his mind to it. We can treat our cancer and win the same way, if we set our minds to it,” he said.
Read more about Bouncer’s and Wayne’s campaign to raise awareness and Federal funding for pancreatic cancer research in honor of Wayne’s late wife Sybil who passed away due to pancreatic cancer in 2011.
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The Precision Newsletter is an electronic-only publication that is distributed by email. Each issue is sent monthly to patients, alumni patients and friends of the University of Florida Health Proton Therapy Institute. As the official newsletter of the Institute, the content is compiled and prepared by our communications representative and approved by the editor Stuart Klein, executive director of UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. Special bulletin newsletters may occasionally be prepared when timely topics and new developments in proton therapy occur. If you would like to send a Letter to the Editor, please click here.
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