Treated 2001 · Posted 2002

“Protons are heavy, penetrate without scattering, and dump nearly their entire dose in a small volume of tissue (like the prostate), with almost no collateral damage. You really don’t need to understand anything other than this.”

I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in October of 2000. My PSA had risen from 4.0 to 4.8 over a period of about 18 months, so my GP doctor wanted a biopsy. No tumor was detectable by DRE, but the biopsy showed one core out of ten at Gleason 3+3 (i.e. 6), so I was at a very early stage (thankfully). I started considering my options right away. My URO wanted to operate or implant seeds, although he was a novice at implanting seeds. How dumb did he think I was? My father had the operation and his recovery was long and torturous, so I already had a bias against the operation. I read a general article my URO gave me, and the article in Fortune magazine written by Andy Grove of Intel fame. Neither mentioned protons as an option. Since my wife had spent many years working in a hospital, we started talking to some of our doctor friends. One GP said “why don’t you consider protons? I had a friend who just got back from Loma Linda and says it is great”. That was all it took for me, because it caused me to remember my experience at the Air Force Weapons Lab about 30 years earlier. I worked with another scientist who had done his graduate work on proton stopping powers of various materials. A friend of his was working as a health radiation physicist at the Harvard accelerator, and he explained all about why protons are the “only” way to treat a tumor. It felt rather stupid that I had not remembered that earlier, but I suppose I was still in shock from finding out that I had cancer.

From then on it was protons all the way for me. I did see my URO again and he reluctantly said he thought he could support protons if I really wanted that, but wanted me to see a seed specialist. I saw the specialist and he could not give me a good reason for not doing protons, he could only say that he would choose seeds over protons. It did disturb me that he (the specialist) did not understand the radioisotopes that were used for the seeds. He did not know what type of radiation they emitted. Later I found out that the isotope he was talking about was the wrong one.

I got on the net and read everything. The bottom line seemed to be that X-ray radiation had as good or better cure rate than the operation, but both had a high incidence of bad side effects. What the seed specialist did not seem to understand is that all types of radiation have essentially the same effect on the body for the same total amount of dose. The problem with X-rays is that they scatter upon entering the body (because they have no mass) and to get enough dose on the prostate means doing a lot of collateral damage to surrounding tissue. Protons are heavy, penetrate without scattering, and dump nearly their entire dose in a small volume of tissue (like the prostate), with almost no collateral damage. You really don’t need to understand anything other than this.

I got on the phone with Dr. Rossi and his nurse Sharon Hoyle at Loma Linda and they took care of everything. My company changed its medical insurance to Blue Cross of California to cover the treatment, and in early January 2001 (PSA now 5.1) my wife and I were off to Loma Linda for a two month vacation. Vacation? Well it was certainly a better vacation than some I have taken. There is so much to see and do in Southern California that two months is not enough time to do it all. We even took a weekend trip to Flagstaff and Sedonia, Arizona. Of course the people we met was the high point - so wonderful. Words cannot even start to express how great the Loma Linda staff is. I am sure there is no other hospital like it anywhere in the world!

By early March I was back at work and feeling great. A friend of mine who had prostate cancer at the same time as I, had refused to listen to my advice about going to Loma Linda. He was recovering from the operation at home in diapers. After four months he was still in diapers and his PSA was rising, my PSA had dropped to 2.0. Again I advised him to go to Loma Linda, but I don’t know if he did. This sort of tragedy results from people switching off their own brain and listening only to their doctor! Please don’t do that. Get the facts for yourself, study the statistics and the science, and make your own decision. If your prostate cancer is operable, then it is contained. If it is contained, protons will kill it without destroying the nerves and other tissues, it’s just simple science. URO’s by and large do not understand the science, but they do understand cutting it out and collecting the MONEY!

My PSA has now dropped to 0.4 and I am stilling doing great. Side effects have been almost nil. I never had hormones or any other treatment besides the protons at Loma Linda. And here is another great part of the story. Should the cancer ever come back, it can be treated again at Loma Linda, or hopefully by that time at any number of treatment facilities that are now either under construction or being planned.

Dennis Hollars