Barbara Green, who is 56, was sent by the Christie Hospital in Manchester for the pioneering proton beam therapy, known as PBT,after she was diagnosed with cancer for the third time in 10 years.
Now, just three months after the treatment for a rare cancer of the spine which had left her in severe pain and on long-term sick, Barbara is back at work in the outpatients department at Burnley General Hospital.
And the grateful nurse has nothing but praise for the treatment she had in Jacksonville, Florida, which she credits for her helping her get back to normal.
She said:"Everyone was so kind and everything was sorted so well with every ‘i’ dotted and ‘t’ crossed.
"I started to feel better halfway through my treatment and I don’t know whether it was the sunshine or the fact that I knew something was being done to treat me.
"Without the PBT I would not be back at work.”
PBT is a specialist form of radiotherapy that targets cancers very precisely, increasing success rates and reducing side-effects.
It targets tumours with less damage to surrounding healthy tissue and is particularly appropriate for certain cancers in children who are at risk of lasting damage to organs that are still growing.
It has been offered overseas to NHS patients who are eligible for treatment in England since 2008 in a programme that has supported around 1,000 patients.
And from August next year the Christie will begin treating patients in Manchester as the UK’s first NHS high-energy centre.
Barbara said she was glad that other cancer patients will soon be able to have the treatment without having to travel so far.
She added: "I can’t praise the care we had in the USA enough.
“But going to America is just such a long way for such a long time and having to travel there just added to the stress.
" I’m so glad that people will soon be able to have what I had without having to travel abroad.”
Barbara had already had breast cancer in 2007 and a double mastectomy five years later.
When she started experiencing back pain in 2016 after yoga classes both Barbara and her GP put it down to sciatica.
So she was devastated when an oncologist at Burnley General broke the news that scans revealed a mass on her spine that they suspected was a rare chordoma.
Barbara said: "To be told I had cancer for the third time was absolutely the worst thing.
“The first two occasions had been bad but I had managed to remain positive.
"But the third time I was in total despair.
"I just wanted to crawl in a corner and disappear.”
As a nurse, Barbara knew surgery carried the risk of leaving her doubly incontinent and in a wheelchair.
Then specialists at Royal Preston Hospital referred her to the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital in Birmingham, where she was first told about PBT in the States.
Barbara was then referred to the Christie, where her consultant Dr Catherine Coyle, informed her that she fulfilled the criteria for PBT treatment in Florida, and it would be paid for by the NHS.
Knowing the treatment would offer her the best chance of living a normal life Barbara seized the opportunity to have it.
She was joined by her husband Kevin, who was granted leave from the engineering company where he works.
Dr Coyle added: “Barbara’s case was a rare and complex one requiring the co-operation of clinicians from more than one hospital trust.
"Not everyone with a sarcoma can be helped by proton beam therapy, but we are delighted that Barbara was suitable to receive it, given how close it was to her bladder, bowel and delicate nerve systems.
"PBT treatment has given her a very good chance of tumour control without the side effects from surgery.
“The Christie PBT facility will mean that patients like Barbara, who are in pain and feeling very anxious and stressed, won’t have to undergo long plane flights to receive treatment thousands of miles from home, but can receive care closer to home with the added support of family and friends close by.”
Over the last century, the Christie radiotherapy department has pioneered many advances in the treatment.
It already leads in advanced radiotherapy, delivering more complex treatments than any other centre in the country. The introduction of PBT will allow it to continue to make advances in this area and improve patient treatment and care.