Genesee County Woman Triumphs Over Health Issues Along with Breast Cancer, Happy that Proton Therapy “Killed the Cancer”

Teresa Was Working on Scheduling Her Annual Mammogram, Then She Found a Lump

Author: Jasmine Brown

Breast Cancer Survivor, Proton Therapy Patient Rings Bell

“I don’t even feel like I went through it… You might have to go through a few more treatments than you would [with] the traditional [radiation], but it’s worth it because it [proton therapy] doesn’t put your body through as much trauma than it already has been [through].”


“October 19. I remember the day. Horrible day.”

Teresa Link of Clio was working on the farm, a normal day for her in 2019. It was hay season, and she was working extra hours so that she could pay for her yearly mammogram.

“I came home and took a shower. I’m washing myself and I’m like, ‘Oh, my God.’ I mean it was big, and it wasn’t there the day before,” explained Teresa.

She was diagnosed with left-sided breast cancer. The cancer was also in her lymph nodes. More problems arose when Teresa started the first part of her cancer treatment plan: chemotherapy. After completing around four treatments at the beginning of 2020, she had lost so much weight and was so weak, she nearly died.

“I ended up in the hospital with perforated bowel and sepsis,” she said. “I was in a coma for three weeks.”

Teresa went through physical therapy to learn how to walk again and was finally released on March 31, 2020. After recovering from this health emergency, she was to begin the second part of her cancer treatment plan in July, which involved surgery.

“She [the doctor] started with the lymph node,” said Teresa. “I guess my blood pressure dropped and my heart rate went sky-high, they had to quit. I finally got the breast cancer out on September 26.”

After the successful surgery, it was time for Teresa to begin the last part of her treatment plan, which was proton therapy beam radiation at the McLaren Proton Therapy Center in Flint. This treatment was an option decided between Teresa’s radiation oncologist at the time and her heart specialist. In 2006, Teresa suffered a mild heart attack, so her physicians wanted to avoid delivering radiation to her heart.

“With proton therapy, we can limit how deep the radiation goes – unlike X-rays, protons stop where we tell them to,” said Christian Hyde, MD, DABR, Teresa’s radiation oncologist and proton therapy specialist. “Because we have a state-of-the art facility here in Flint, we often recommend women with left-sided breast cancer to receive proton therapy when possible, because we know we can spare more of the heart from radiation damage and help avoid heart problems down the road. In Teresa’s case, this was particularly important due to her heart history.”

When Teresa stepped into the proton therapy treatment room for the first time, she was nervous, but she says the staff helped her feel comfortable and relaxed enough to take a nap during her treatments.

Teresa says the side effects of the treatment were nothing compared to what she had seen one of her friends go through with conventional radiation therapy treatments for her breast cancer.

Proton Therapy Treatments for Breast Cancer

“She had a burn on her back where it [the X-ray beam] went all the way through her body. I was over there putting cream on her, trying to relieve some of the pain,” explained Teresa. “So, I’ve seen both sides – her doing the traditional and me doing this one [proton]. It was amazing in the biggest difference on how the side effects were.

“The only side effects I received with proton therapy is I got a little red, like a light sunburn. Probably about halfway through, I got little tiny blisters like sun poisoning. It was uncomfortable, but it wasn’t excruciating pain. They gave me a cream, I put it on there, and it was gone. Then I got a tan in that area. Those were the only side effects I got, which is amazing.”

Teresa says she wanted to participate in the clinical trials because it allowed her to ‘pay it forward’ for those diagnosed with breast cancer in the future.

“That way if it does help me, then it can help someone else,” explained Teresa. “And it did. It killed the cancer.”

“Being part of a clinical trial, especially for patients like Teresa with a heart history, helps us understand the full risks and benefits of proton therapy when treating near the heart,” explained Dr. Hyde. “Teresa continues to do well after treatment without additional heart problems, and we’ll keep a very close eye on her progress. One of the great things about being on a clinical trial is that there are lots of doctors and nurses watching your progress and helping you where needed.  It’s like an extra layer of support.  I wish all my patients could be part of that.”

Teresa rang the bell in February 2021 to signify the end of her proton therapy treatments. Even though her body had been through so much in almost a two-year timeframe, she says she feels great.

“I put the weight back on, I can drive, and hopefully ride my motorcycle. Physically, I feel a lot better. Mentally, I feel a lot better too,” said Teresa. “It’s just a big difference from this day last year to today. I might be 56 years old, but I feel like I’m 20.

I'm a Fighter Breast Cancer Shirt

“I don’t even feel like I went through it… You might have to go through a few more treatments than you would [with] the traditional [radiation], but it’s worth it because it [proton therapy] doesn’t put your body through as much trauma that it already has been [through].”

Not only is she excited to get on her Harley, but she also looks forward to horseback riding, barrel racing, and bailing hay again.

For any type of cancer, Teresa recommends asking about proton therapy. She tells people this:

“It’s amazing in terms of the difference between the traditional treatment and the proton treatment option. Number one, the side effects.

“It [proton therapy] didn’t damage my heart because they could set it right where it had to go. You don’t even know you’re getting the treatment unless you’re watching it.”

To learn more about cancer treatment with proton therapy, visit