Treated 2002 · Posted 2003

"If any man just diagnosed with prostate cancer and facing the totally bewildering array of treatment options reads this, take seriously not only my testimony but equally those of the many hundreds of other healthy survivors who placed their trust (and their lives) in protons and prayer."

PSA a big zero! After 6 types of treatments! Did the proton beam finally make the kill? Is it a cure or will it reoccur?

My proton treatment at Loma Linda was somewhat different from that of most of us “BOB” guys in that it wasn’t my primary prostate cancer treatment, but rather was to try to slow down or stop a very aggressive type of prostate cancer, which previous treatments had not conquered.

I started out with finding a slightly elevated PSA. Biopsy negative. “Probably just a big prostate in a big guy.”

And then the PSA started an accelerating climb over 2 years, with a “velocity” increasing 50% every 6 months.

“Let’s check biopsies again”. And negative again. And again! And again! PSA went up to 21.

Meantime, I spent nearly full-time learning everything I could about prostate cancer, from most of the recent books, extensive Internet searches, and consultation with doctor friends and previous prostate cancer survivors.

I was in the care of one of the best prostate cancer urologists on the west coast. He was sure I must have cancer - there was no other explanation of the rapid “PSA velocity”. But no one would even consider starting treatment without biopsy proof.

So I underwent a TURP surgery (the roto-rooter job), not because I was having major urinary problems, but to carve out big sections of prostate tissue from the inside out to try to find the cancer.

And still negative pathology!

Then 12 more biopsy cores, bringing me to a total of 52 times I endured the dreaded 357-magnum biopsy gun.

And yes, they finally found the prostate cancer in 1 out of the final cores. Truly a “needle in a haystack”. “Must be mighty small, contained, and slow growing”. But no - it was a dreaded Gleason “9”, the most aggressive type.

So, knowing even though it was still small, but had to be rapidly growing and of the type that easily leads to a box in the ground, I wanted it out - gone - completely - no halfway measures. No wondering if it’s still there lurking.

So I elected the radical prostatectomy surgery, even knowing its probable side effects. But because my poor prostate was all inflamed from the TURP, I had to wait 3 months for it to calm down enough to withstand the big surgery.

And to “hold things static” for the 3 months, I was put on “complete androgen blockade”, the hormonal combination of zoladex and casodex. “That should keep it from growing while we wait for the surgery.”

Yes, of course, the hormonal treatments have side effects, but tolerable ones. But they also have the effect of artificially driving the PSA to zero, even though it wasn’t really zero. So there was no longer any way to check up on what was happening.

And wanting to do everything within my power to hit it from as many directions as possible, I immediately started two more methods of treatment:

First, I radically changed my diet and lifestyle. My research first confirmed that besides testosterone, probably the next most active “fuel” specifically enhancing prostate cancer growth is animal fat. And so, from a “beef and potatoes” guy, loving all the fat-filled extras too many of us gorge on, I changed to become a nearly total “vegan” (don’t laugh!), with fat constituting less than 10% of my dietary intake. My wife joined me in this difficult switch, and quickly found all sorts of ways of making vegetables and soy products appetizing and attractive. I found the only way to succeed in such a diet change is to do it whole-hog - all or nothing - rather than try to gradually shift into it.

I get most of my protein from twice-a-day delicious fruit smoothies containing soy isolate. And we have lots of stir-fries, pastas, salads and soups. By now (a year and a half later), I don’t even look back. It’s become a satisfactory diet lifestyle.

And besides helping to slow the prostate cancer growth, this diet produced several other results enhancing my overall health - 50 pounds of “belly” weight came off easily. My blood pressure dropped to such a good range that I was taken off the B.P. prescription I had been on for over 20 years. My cholesterol dropped to “amazingly” low value. My strength and energy improved.

Second, I committed myself in prayer to God as the healer that scripture tells us He is. I take this very seriously. Jesus Christ is not only my Lord and Savior, but my primary healer, working together with all the surgeons, radiologists, oncologists, and others who bring the latest in modern medicine to my body. I quickly built a committed prayer team for my healing among Christian friends and family across the country and in a number of foreign countries, praying for me consistently through each step of the cancer process.

The radical prostatectomy was in August 2001, and I’m confident was as well done as anyone could have done. The surgeon was confident “I got it all!” The post-surgery recuperation and side effects were as the books read.

But the surgery pathology report later contained a shocker -- A Gleason 9 prostate cancer is a very nasty enemy, capable of doing all kinds of damage.

The bad news from pathology was that they didn’t get it all. In only the 3 months following confirmed diagnosis, the tumor had grown, despite the hormonal treatment, from the 1 in 52 biopsy cores “needle in a haystack” to completely engulfing the whole prostate, both sides, and having “positive margins”, meaning it extended clear beyond everything taken out in surgery and was loose in my pelvic area. Yikes!

They did offer some good news along with the bad -- that it wasn’t yet in my pelvic lymph nodes or seminal vesicles, and the overall Gleason was re-classified as “8” (still very aggressive).

So, hopefully (no way to tell), even though “loose”, it was loose still in the “prostate bed” pelvic area. CT and Bone scans (as imprecise as they are) hadn’t shown any metastasis yet.

My urologist and surgeon both recommended a full course of immediate radiation. And I scheduled it to start in a local conventional photon cancer radiation center.

But meanwhile, I saw an ad for Loma Linda Proton Therapy in Newsweek, and explored it extensively on the Internet. It made absolute sense. It definitely would offer much less “good guy” tissue damage (especially in my rather important rectum and bladder) than conventional, and would offer at least as good a chance at a cancer kill than any other method. The “Bragg Peak” effect, to precisely target the beam where I needed it, sure beat the ricochet means that photon radiation sends.

The more I studied it, the more God led me to be convinced it was right for me. But I had dozens of questions. My doctor said, “yes, he had heard of proton radiation, but it was all a bunch of hogwash”. And most of the Loma Linda prostate patients were there for their first primary treatment.

For me, it would be essentially my 6th form of treatment (after TURP, radical prostatectomy, hormonal treatment, vegan diet change, and healing prayer) - a “salvage job”.

That led me to my first exposure to the absolutely uniquely caring, informative, helpful, supportive people of Loma Linda. From the phone answerer on up; with my doctor, Carl Rossi; with wonderful Sharon Hoyle; with Jerry Troy; with the balloon-inserting operators; with literally everyone with whom I came in contact, I discovered friends willing to take the time with me; willing to explain carefully answers to all my questions; willing to pray for me. What a change! This is mighty rare in the practice of modern medicine!

It’s not just an isolated few “caring” people; it’s an institutional culture at Loma Linda. It comes from the hand of Jesus Christ upon all who help us receive the best chance of a cure that the latest modern technology can offer. It’s the way it all works together to “make the man whole”. And is the technology awesome! How blessed I was to be accepted as a patient and to be able to start treatments quickly.

My proton treatments occurred during January and February 2002. I felt great and had no side effects. My wife and I enjoyed the time immensely. We camped in our RV at Lake Perris the whole time - cost us a big $6.00 a day! In beautiful surroundings to boot! And we started an exercise program, swimming 50 laps in the wonderful Drayson Center pool every day. It all works together for good!

Now, 6 months later, still no side effects. Feeling great. And I’ve had 3 PSA checks so far, all the big ZERO!

Of course, I’m still well aware that I’m classed as “high risk” for later reoccurrence. And that if it later reoccurs, there are not really “cure” treatment options remaining - the best they can do is try to slow it down.

But am I cured? Time will tell. Hopefully a long time. No way to tell now.

But I can say “so far so good”. Thank you, doctors! Thank you, Loma Linda! Thank you, Lord!

For the good state I’m in now, frankly I give the primary credit and thanks of the Lord. Prayer has been my most important cancer weapon. God is good!

But without question, the Proton treatment at Loma Linda has been a close second! I believe it gave me the (hopefully) final punch.

If any man just diagnosed with prostate cancer and facing the totally bewildering array of treatment options reads this, take seriously not only my testimony but equally those of the many hundreds of other healthy survivors who placed their trust (and their lives) in protons and prayer. Hopefully your Gleason score will be more manageable than mine. But whatever it is, there’s nothing out there better to offer you the best chances possible.

And if you go with it, you’ll be surprised to find you’re in really “good hands”. It’s painless; has minimal if any side effects; targets precisely the “bad guy” cells; has proven track record.

And the Loma Linda people who will stand with you from beginning to end as you are treated are awesome! They’re absolute pros! They’re like family. And some may, in fact, be angels just placed there to make you feel loved and safe.

Oh, and if you’re so inclined, I’d appreciate your prayers also, that my PSA Zero will stay that way and that I’ll never have to face a reoccurrence again!

Bob Young