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Paul's story

The dogs - and my team at Beaumont - have been key to my recovery. I walk Skate and Dags twice a day; I lost 15 pounds and feel great. And now I want to give people hope.

Paul Reasoner

Cancer journey begins with cutting-edge treatment and ends with man’s best friend

Paul’s voice saved thanks to precise proton therapy

When Paul Reasoner takes his two Llewellin English setter dogs – Skate and Dags - out for a walk, he’s reminded of the journey that brought them into his life.

It all started with a surprising cancer diagnosis.

In early 2021, Paul noticed a lump in his neck. A series of tests revealed throat cancer originating on his tonsils. He was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma.

Because of the location of the cancer, Paul was concerned about damage to his voice from traditional radiation treatment. As a trial attorney, swim announcer and outdoorsman, preserving his ability to speak was a priority.

After consulting multiple leading cancer centers in the U.S., he was directed to Beaumont’s Proton Therapy Center, which was the first to offer the breakthrough cancer treatment in Michigan. The center is also a short drive from his home and office in Metro Detroit, making the frequent treatments more convenient.

“My voice to me is like the fingers of a pianist or a surgeon,” Paul said. “So, this diagnosis was potentially devastating. And when I researched it, the proton beam treatment - the real reduction of side effects - was key for me.”

With proton therapy, proton beams enter the body and deposit most of their energy directly into the tumor, delivering higher doses directly to the cancer. One of the most precise and advanced treatments available, proton therapy protects healthy tissue and critical organs near the tumor from excess radiation.

“It definitely decreased the radiation dose to the voice box and swallowing muscles, so it reduced the chance of side effects, like a hoarse voice or swallowing difficulties,” said Paul's radiation oncologist Dr. Rohan Deraniyagla, medical director of the Beaumont Proton Therapy Center. “Patients are seeking out this type of care because it targets the cancer and doesn’t cause excess damage.”

The treatment also preserved Reasoner’s sense of taste and minimized swallowing issues or dry mouth; symptoms more likely to occur with traditional radiation.

After completing treatment in August 2021, Paul went on a hunting trip to rebuild his strength in Northern Michigan, where he met a fellow cancer survivor from West Virginia in the woods. This chance meeting and a series of fateful connections led him on a trip to West Virginia and the two dogs that are now a part of his family.

While there, the new friends visited with a family who recently lost their patriarch to prostate cancer. The bond between the two prized possessions he left behind - Skate and Dags - and Paul was immediate.

Breeders and show dog enthusiasts had expressed interest in purchasing the dogs, but the owner had balked. He told his family the dogs belonged with a new owner who would let them run in the woods. Before he died, he told his family he would “send them someone” to take care of the dogs.

“I drove to West Virginia, waiting for the results from my first CT scan to see if the cancer was gone. And when I got there, these highfalutin hunting dogs jumped in my car. His wife and daughter - whose name is Nicola, the same as my daughter - said they’d never seen anything like it.”

Paul is now cancer-free and able to resume his work and leisure activities.

“That’s how I got back in shape after the treatment: I hiked in the woods and went bird hunting,” he said. “The dogs - and my team at Beaumont - have been key to my recovery. I walk Skate and Dags twice a day; I lost 15 pounds and feel great. And now I want to give people hope.”

Learn about Beaumont's Proton Therapy Center

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