After Proton Therapy for Prostate Cancer, What’s Next?

What do men who treated their prostate cancer with proton therapy do once they return home? They party.

In the fall of 2013, less than two years after finishing his proton therapy in Jacksonville, a South Carolina UF Health Proton Therapy Institute alumnus realized he knew of several other proton alumni who lived within a short drive of his home. So he and his wife decided to host a small local get-together. To be exact, they invited ten other local couples to their home for some proton-themed fun, food, adult beverages, and camaraderie.

The host was Ron Nelson, author of the book PROTONS versus Prostate Cancer: EXPOSED, over fifty articles for The After Proton Blog, and a frequent speaker at the Institute’s prostate cancer clinics. Recalling the 2013 proton party, Ron said, “It felt like a little taste of what we all appreciated so much while being treated in Jacksonville. Nothing quite compares with that feeling or the unique connection we developed with each other, having walked the same path.”

Ron continued, “The party was actually a completely uncharacteristic thing for me to do. I’ve never been a party person, rarely went to them and certainly never hosted one. I’m still not exactly sure why, but it somehow seemed like the thing to do. So we did.”

Each year since then Ron and Lucy have continued what has become a tradition of hosting a local annual get-together for prostate cancer survivors treated with proton therapy. The mission is to provide a local venue for proton alumni to meet, reunite, and celebrate their good fortune together. “We rekindle our connection,” said Ron. “Even a strong bond needs nurturing.”

Ron calls this annual event “Empty, Drink, & Be Merry,” an inside reference that only prostate cancer patients will understand and appreciate. And he is steadfast that it’s strictly a party—not a fundraiser, support group, or educational forum. Ron and Lucy provide food and beverages, and each year Ron devises a proton-themed game with “fabulous prizes donated by the Institute,” where most of the men were treated. The coveted grand prize is a well-guarded secret, and always a big hit.

Ron and Lucy make a concerted effort to be inclusive. Although most of their guests were treated here at the Institute, a few were treated elsewhere. And while almost all the men are prostate cancer survivors, guests have occasionally included survivors of other cancers treated with proton therapy. The guest list has even included men yet to be treated, possibly still undecided about how to proceed, and interested in hearing more about proton therapy from those who know.

“It’s been an amazing ride. Year after year, word has spread, and our guest list has grown beyond anything Lucy or I ever imagined. This year, for our seventh annual Empty, Drink, & Be Merry celebration there were over sixty of us! Lucy and I are honored that so many survivors have come to our home,” said Ron.

And Ron’s little proton party is no longer strictly local. “Some drive several hours within South Carolina, and we’ve even had guests from North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida who stay overnight in a hotel just so they can celebrate with this group of amazing people,” said Ron. “UF Proton deserves a lot of credit for instilling such patient unity, and we celebrate them as well as our good fortune in discovering proton therapy.”

What does all this prove? “It’s simple,” says Ron. “Proton people are happy people who like to party together!” That sums it up nicely.

Contact Ron at to request an invitation to the 2020 Empty, Drink, & Be Merry celebration and become part of this annual fall gathering of proton / prostate cancer survivors.



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