Treated 2002 · Posted 2003

". . .I was sick and you looked after me. . ."

For most of the past ten years, my PSA had held steady at about 2.5. I had one biopsy in 1994, which did not show any cancer. My urologist at the time did a Digital Rectal Exam (DRE) observing an enlargement of the prostate, so thought a biopsy was in order.

Then in about 1996, I began to need to get up three or four times at night. I had been taking 95% Saw Palmetto regularly for about three years previously. I had changed to a new urologist closer to my home, and in our first meeting he tested my rate of urination and said that because my rate was less than 5cc/sec it indicated that I had BHP, (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia). He said he was in the process of conducting for the FDA a double blind study with a fairly new procedure called Transurethral Microwave Thermotherapy. He told me that if I didn't do something in the next year or two I might be in danger of having to use a catheter and bag on a regular basis!

I participated in his study and in the treatment, and found that I was relieved of most of the symptoms I was having. My rate doubled to 10cc/sec, and has remained at that rate since then. The procedure consists of inserting a microwave antenna into the urethra and emitting about 40 watts of power at 900 Megahertz at the prostrate, burning away part of the prostate to relieve pressure on the urethra. During the process the urethral tissue is protected with cool water circulating in the inserted antenna sheathing.

In my physical exam of June 2001, my PSA had moved up to 5.0. My doctor recommended I see my urologist, who checked for Total PSA and Free PSA. He said if the Free PSA was below 25%, the probability of cancer was high. The test came out as 6.5 Total PSA and 9% Free PSA. He scheduled a biopsy in October 2001, and found cancer in 35% of the samples. The grade was T2a with a Gleason Score of 4+3. The same day, he gave me a four-month injection of Lupron to slow the progress of the cancer until radiation treatment could be scheduled. Later, I got a second opinion on the evaluation of the Gleason Score, and it came back at 4+4, a disappointment to me, but an indicator that I should not delay much longer in the choice of treatment. I immediately began a search on the Internet for any information available for Prostate Cancer. I soon discovered that there is far more information available than a person can digest in a reasonable time frame, along with some conflicting opinions as to the best treatment.

In Late October, I contacted the Proton Radiation Center at Loma Linda Hospital, and they asked me to send previous medical reports and the name of my insurance carrier. I was called back a few days later and told that my Minnesota Medica and the Federal Medicare A & B insurance would pay for most of the treatment costs.

After a couple more weeks of checking the Internet, and doing a lot of reading, I found an Internet web site that offered comments by others who had been treated for prostate cancer by various methods. I placed all my statistics in the form provided. The next morning, at 8:30 am, I received a call from Ed Souder, located about 5 miles away from us in St. Louis Park, MN. Ed told me, "I have just returned from treatment at Loma Linda two months ago, and they were 'wonderful'"! This was just the kind of confirmation I needed.

I called Loma Linda a couple of days later, and they said that they had an opening for me on January 28th, and that treatment could start in one to three weeks later. Lorraine and I drove from Minneapolis to Loma Linda with all those things we thought we might need for the next three months; a thoroughly stuffed car! We allocated 5 days for the trip, as snowstorms are common in Minnesota, Iowa and Kansas in January. Fortunately, the weather was clear all the way, and we made it in 4 days.

A couple we had met while living in Liberia, West Africa, were now living a few miles from Loma Linda, in Riverside, CA, so we called from Minnesota to ask if they had any suggestions as to where we might live while getting treatment. A couple days after arriving in Loma Linda, they introduced us to a family living about 5 miles from the hospital - a widow, her 21-year-old son, and her 89-year-old father. They graciously took us into their household for the next ten weeks, and we became a part of their family for the time we were there.

In our initial interview, Dr. Yanomoto took almost two hours with Lorraine and I, explaining the process of the treatment, and the reason for including both four weeks of proton radiation to concentrate on the prostate, and five weeks of photon radiation to catch anything that might have escaped from the prostate into the surrounding tissue. He emphasized my need to go to the exercise center to start strength training exercises to prevent the loss of bone mass during radiation. During the radiation treatment he was available on a weekly basis to answer any questions that might come up.

Side Effects - During the 4 weeks of proton radiation treatment, I began to need to be up about once an hour at night. I would then be back to sleep in just a few minutes, so it didn't seem like I was losing much sleep. During the photon radiation of 5 weeks I also began to develop some constipation, but was helped by a mild laxative obtained in a drug store.

The attitude of everyone we came in contact with was so positive and encouraging. The men and women who were operating the proton and photon radiation systems were technically well trained, and also very responsive to any needs we might have from time to time.

One specific event really amazed me - About a week before the end of my treatments, one of my fellow patients was hospitalized. I got his room number, but couldn't find the room. I stopped at the reception desk in the lobby to get clear directions to his room. I told the lady at the desk that he and I were in the proton radiation program. After I had finished writing down the directions, she said, "Say, would you and your wife like to come over to our home for a visit? We'd like to get to know you better." I had to decline the invitation, as we had so many things to get in order before we took off on the trip back to Minnesota. However, it was another illustration of the heart-warming attitude we were experiencing among all the many members of the staff of the hospital with whom we came in contact.

In the front lobby of the hospital is a large picture of a doctor with Jesus next to him to cooperate in the healing process. We are sure that many of the hospital staff are seeking to be in agreement with the admonition of Jesus when he said, "....Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me...." Matthew 25:34-36

After the first week or so, I was able to get an early morning radiation appointment, which left the rest of the day free. This allowed a lot of exploring of Riverside, San Bernardino, and Arrowhead up in the mountains, or just relaxing at our 'home'. We were able to visit four of our good friends who now live within 50 miles of Loma Linda, and it was good to renew those relationships. As we look back now, it was a wonderful vacation time for us.

The crowning conclusion to all this adventure is that on the 15th of August, 2002, I received the report from my doctor that my PSA is now 0.2. Halleluiah!!!, and Lorraine and I sincerely thank all of the wonderful people at Loma Linda University Medical Center.

Dick Holmes