My Prostate Cancer Story
Going the Extra Mile to Beat Prostate Cancer
I was fortunate and humbled to achieve some pretty rewarding accomplishments during my 25 years as a competitive runner. I owe much of my success to the strategic approach I took to my sport. I surrounded myself with the best coaches, trained with the best runners, worked hard and kept a positive outlook.
After being diagnosed with prostate cancer in the summer of 2014, I decided to apply some of the same lessons I learned on the track toward my health battle. I plotted out my treatment goals, researched my medical options, consulted with expert physicians and selected the path that I felt would give me the best opportunity for success on my terms.
Inside Track to Diagnosis
I beat testicular cancer 20 years ago, which helped keep me in tune with my health going forward. This meant getting regular check–ups and screenings, including prostate–specific antigen (PSA) testing. My PSA levels had been gradually rising during the past few years, and in 2014 a nodule was detected on my prostate during a physical exam. A biopsy revealed I had intermediate–risk prostate cancer. There were no physical symptoms whatsoever. Staying in the routine of seeing my doctor regularly helped detect my cancer in the relatively early stages.
Maintaining an Active Lifestyle in San Diego
I have always led an active life and continue to do so today, as a husband, father and head coach of the cross country and track programs at California State University, San Marcos. I run three to five miles a day, enjoy outdoor activities with my family and make public speaking appearances at local schools and community organizations. Keeping active and retaining full physical function were at the forefront of my mind as I began to consider treatment options. Some of the side effects from the more conventional prostate cancer treatments can be devastating, as I’m about to explain.
Tumor Located in Sensitive Area
My tumor was located near a nerve bundle that controls my bowel, urinary and sexual functions. This presented me with some very serious concerns. My primary care physician from a health system outside of Scripps gave me two treatment options: surgery or X–ray radiation.
I opted against surgery, because doctors would need a “safety margin” around the tumor’s perimeter, which would disrupt the nerve bundle. The likely outcome? I wouldn’t be able to get an erection without receiving an injection in the penis. And I’d have to wear diapers most of the time.
I also decided against conventional X–ray radiation therapy, partly because of the nausea and fatigue it often causes. But even more troubling was a personal family experience with X–rays; my father passed away from complications associated with X–ray radiation used to treat his prostate cancer. The likely side effects involved with these two proposed treatment options were unacceptable to me, nor was I comfortable with the “watchful waiting” approach. I was shocked and depressed about my options.
Unique Cancer Treatment Option Emerges
I began to research possible alternatives and was encouraged when I discovered a different form of radiation treatment called proton therapy, which up to that point nobody had told me about. The more I read and spoke with others who had been treated with proton therapy, the more I knew it was right for me. After consulting with various medical specialists and exploring the fullest range of treatment possibilities, I chose to undergo proton therapy at the Scripps Proton Therapy Center in San Diego. I completed my eight week course of proton treatment in the fall of 2014.
Understanding Proton Therapy
Proton therapy is a noninvasive form of external beam radiation treatment that kills cancer cells while preserving healthy surrounding tissue. Conventional radiation treatments use X–rays that penetrate into normal tissue beyond the tumor, which increases the probability of side effects and secondary cancers. But a proton beam can be controlled to stop where the tumor stops. Proton therapy has been used in the United States since the 1950s but is only recently becoming more widely available. The Scripps Proton Therapy Center is one of 20 proton centers in the United States.
A Strong Outlook
According to my radiation oncologist at Scripps, Dr. Carl Rossi, my treatments were delivered successfully. The goal was to eradicate my tumor, resulting in a cure, and that’s the path that I am now on with no evidence of cancer. My prognosis is excellent, and I’ll continue with regular follow–up visits for monitoring. I’m very confident in my treatment choice and that everything is going to turn out great.
And importantly, I have experienced absolutely no side effects from my treatments. I coached my cross country teams throughout my treatments, without missing a single day, and I have continued my coaching duties ever since. I’ve maintained the intimacy I value so much with my wife JoAnn and remain active as a father and mentor in the community.