Treated 2016· Posted 2017
"I found it hard to believe how easy the process was. I waited for the other shoe to drop, but it never did."
Canadian Reality of Proton Therapy
Where do I start? Well, I guess it starts with my annual physical which I was six months late for. My family doctor, bless his soul, insisted that we do the annual fingercheck which I never really liked or believed in for that matter. Well, in the end, it’s that exam that ended up being the first indicator that I was in trouble. It was taking a little longer than usual and I wondered what what's going on. Upon completing the exam my doctor told me that I needed to do a follow-up PSA test. My PSA result came in at 4.3 which is an indication of prostate cancer. Not too bad I thought, but my doctor told me that we would need to proceed with a biopsy. So I met the urologist and we set up an appointment. As he finished the test, I had a feeling I was headed for trouble when I overheard him telling the patient in the next room that everything looked good. That was not what he had told me.
A couple of weeks later I went back to the urologist for my results and was told my biopsy reading was 8 and I was considered high risk. With that in mind, and considering my young age, he recommended the da Vinci robotic surgery which would remove the prostate and all risk of cancer, or so he told me. My paper result was 4 + 3 = 7, so I am still not sure how they got to an 8. I have a feeling that urologists err on the side of lowering risk by leaving no doubt and pointed me in the direction of surgery as being the sure bet. As is standard practice in Canada, he sent me on to an oncologist with a couple of pieces of advice: First was that they both have the same success rate and secondly, if I chose radiation it would forever eliminate the chance of any surgery and getting the sure fire treatment of surgery. After that meeting I started researching prostatectomy surgery and did not like what I was reading in regards to the side effects - this is something I have confirmed with everyone who has had the surgery since my treatments.
Before I met my oncologist I started looking at all my options and on one late night after some prayers, I googled "alternative prostate treatment options" and found out about proton therapy. I read the Bob Marckini's book and looked on the ProtonBob.com website and was sold that night. So I started my journey ...
Based on what I read I felt I was going to be a candidate but now had to confirm with a proton center. The standard treatment takes 45 treatments over 8-9 weeks. Obviously, I checked first to see if there was any proton treatment in Canada, and ... big surprise ... no luck. I then sought out a provider in the Eastern U.S. and spoke to a few centers. Next on the list was a private clinic in Jacksonville who reviewed my case. Note for Canadians: You will not get this treatment paid for by our governments. It is their position proton is experimental and that they have equal outcomes in Canada with surgery and photon radiation. So if you do choose proton, your journey will have to be through U.S. or Europe. It is my position that the success rate of proton is the same as surgery and photon radiation, however, the major difference are in the side effects which are vastly better with proton.
More than a year after my treatment, my PSA is 0.4 with no evident side effects. At this time I will be monitoring my PSA every six months, with my Ontario health care providers, who are excited about my health and the possibility of proton therapy being a cancer treatment here one day. It is my understanding that within the next five years Princess Margaret will be bringing proton to Ontario, however, for some reason it will not be a treatment option for prostate cancer.
I was a skeptic for most of my journey through proton treatment. I found it hard to believe how easy the process was. I waited for the other shoe to drop, but it never did. I find it very rewarding to have gone through this battle and even more so when I can help anyone who is going to be faced with a prostate cancer diagnosis.