Treated 2006 • Posted 2006

Dr. Klein is a nuclear medicine physician, biochemist and medical researcher. He chose proton therapy after much research and “based on the elegant physics of protons."

I was born in Wisconsin 70 years ago and lived in Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Texas (Air Force) and New York before settling in Pennsylvania. I trained to become a nuclear medicine physician, and currently practice half-time at the veterans’ hospital in Pittsburgh. My job includes diagnostic procedures like cardiac stress tests and bone scans, many on prostate cancer patients; and radiation-based treatments too, mainly for overactive thyroids and thyroid cancer, but also for prostate cancer with bone pain using injections of radioactive samarium. This is radiation from inside the body not “external beam” like protons. I had a leg up when it came to understanding radiation therapy.

I was diagnosed with well-localized prostate cancer last summer. It had struck my brother Danny and my brother-in-law John as well. I studied and consulted a lot, met with Dr. Carl Rossi at Loma Linda, asked him a ton of questions (well answered), and said that we doctors must be the most difficult patients. He said no, that in terms of questions, engineers were. (If you’re an engineer, don’t be offended.) By the time I started treatment, six months had passed.

Thanks go to John for stimulating my interest in proton beam therapy. He’s a detail man, though, and made other suggestions, like MRI imaging, that I didn’t follow. I thought that I had had a reasonably thorough workup and it was now a matter of weighing risk against benefit, even a life and death issue, since, if I didn’t act soon, my wife Inara was going to kill me (;-).

Based on the elegant physics of protons, they were my choice. I lived in Redlands for 10 weeks in the winter, commuting to Loma Linda by car and bicycle. I received great treatment from the staff in every respect, and I don’t know where one could find a more interesting and uplifting group than my fellow patients and those who accompanied them. I enjoyed sunny Southern California. It was a great boon to me that Inara relocated with me and that my son Ben and daughter Ali visited.

I’m back in Pittsburgh, doing my nuclear medicine and teaching residents, also swimming and otherwise trying to make the most of the retired half of my time. Even as Bob Marckini and others shared information with me, I inform folks locally and participate in prostate cancer patients’ Web forums like and Have you seen the cartoon showing a dog in front of a computer telling another dog, “On the Internet, they don’t know I’m a dog”? Well, in keeping with the spirit of peers sharing knowledge, on the Internet, they don’t know I’m a doc.

A friend, who happens to be a successful author, received his diagnosis last summer too, and chose focal cryotherapy (a sort of lumpectomy). Since some of his advisers were plugging for watchful waiting, he figured he’d go for what appeared to be a relatively unrisky option that wasn’t as sure to cure. I couldn’t argue with him but said he’d opted for a quick treatment and I for a sunny one.

I ended up believing but not knowing that I’d made the best choice for myself. Because hometown physicians rarely tell patients about proton beam therapy, I like to raise people’s awareness of it while trying not to be dogmatic. I say let’s spread knowledge, keep an open mind and cultivate a positive outlook. I feel well and fortunate, and wish good fortune to all.

Herb Klein, M.D.