TAMPA — Runners gathered for the Gonzmart’s Father’s Day Walk and Jog where they raise money to help aid in Moffitt Cancer Center’s fight against prostate cancer. This year the event raised $110,000, but Moffitt had another surprise in store.
Andrea Gonzmart Williams announced at the event that her father Richard Gonzmart, fourth generation of the Columbia Restaurant Group, would donate $1 million to Moffitt to help build a special operating suite for Brachytherapy.
The therapy is most commonly used to treat prostate cancer and can also treat cervical, breast and sarcoma cancers. The new suite will treat patients in half the time and create a more comfortable environment and accurate experience for the patients.
Currently this treatment keeps patients waiting at least two months before they can receive Brachytherapy. This new suite will allow Moffitt to increase the number of patients it treats each week.
For Gonzmart, Moffitt was the place he received Brachytherapy treatment when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2013. Gonzmart, now in remission, believes in the treatment and feels more individuals should know of its existence.
"I’m so thankful Moffitt is here," Gonzmart said. "When I was going through this I didn’t want something radical and the treatment localized to what I needed and I was given immediate radiation. It’s a miracle."
When Gonzmart first learned about the long waiting list for Brachytherapy at Moffitt he felt the need to do something to help more people receive the treatment they need. Gonzmart said he committed to the $1 million out of the $2 million it would take to get the project for the Brachytherapy suite off the ground.
"This is a resource intensive treatment, so we’re limited in how many treatments we can do per week," said Daniel Fernandez, chief of Brachytherapy at Moffitt. "The benefits of this suite includes taking treatment times from seven to eight hours to two hours with the patient asleep the entire time."
Fernandez said the suite will not only allow for a better patient experience, but will allow for more radiation oncologists like himself to be trained to use Brachytherapy.
"[Physicians] all agree there is a lack of physician experience," Fernandez said. "There are about 20 of us at Moffitt and of those there are two of us trained to do it."
With Moffitt recently starting a Brachytherapy Fellowship, Fernandez hopes that the suite will add to the training experience and present opportunities to advance the treatment.
"We are grateful for [Richard Gonzmart’s] support for the cancer center," Fernandez said.
Gonzmart wants to continue to be an advocate for other patients in discussing prostate cancer more widely, fighting against the stigma of fear and shame that make some reluctant to publicly discuss their diagnosis.
"Eventually I will reach the end of my life, but this [prostate cancer] won’t be the end of my life," Gonzmart said. "I’m thankful to the doctors and how invested they were. If I can help people have faith and face this then my investment is worth it and my gift will save lives."