Treated 1997 • Posted 2004 • Updated 2010
Judge Auslen was treated with proton therapy in 1997. He has the distinction of being the 1,000th BOB member. Judge Auslen's PSA remained at 0.1 for the rest of his life. Sadly, in 2010, he passed away from causes unrelated to prostate cancer.
Below is Judge Auslen's testimonial:
I was successfully treated for prostate cancer with proton therapy in 1997. Unlike many patients who undergo conventional radiation, I was never sick and have been able to lead a normal life.
I was born and grew up in San Francisco, graduated from the University of California and its Law School, Hastings. I served for two years in the military and then spent eight years as Assistant District Attorney in San Francisco after which I was appointed to the Superior Court where I served for another eight years. In 1981 my wife, Pat, and I moved to the Palm Springs area where I continued to hear cases sporadically for several years.
The Dreaded Diagnosis
When PSA measurements were introduced, I started having them routinely, once or twice a year. On one occasion my doctor noted that there had been a slight elevation in the PSA, which he did not think was particularly significant. Everything else was normal. A biopsy revealed some suspicious cells. I was told not to worry about it, and to repeat the biopsy in a few months. The second biopsy confirmed I had cancer.
Researching Treatment Options
In researching treatment options, I came across proton therapy and asked my urologist about it. He told me that proton therapy was “just radiation,” and conventional radiation had advanced to the point where there was no advantage to proton therapy. A second doctor I consulted insisted that proton therapy was indeed, quite different from conventional radiation, and I could expect fewer side effects and minimal damage to healthy tissue with protons. Other physicians I spoke with recommended other treatment options including cryosurgery (freezing) and hormone therapy. Now I was really confused.
Confused and Exhausted
The last physician I would see was at Loma Linda University Cancer Center. I was still frustrated and confused, but I was glad to be exploring the last option. I remember telling my wife, Pat, on the way to the appointment that I did not know what I was going to do or when I was going to do it, but I was certain this would be the last physician I would consult. I had definitely reached the saturation point. More opinions would not help. They would only add to the uncertainty.
I believe my years of hearing cases were helpful training in making this decision. A judge, in a contested case, hears and sees conflicting information from witnesses, evidence and opinions of experts. I always reviewed the testimony and the evidence over and over, and then reflected on the merits and shortcomings of both sides. We always wish that there were some one or some thing else that would make it easier to render a decision, but witnesses and judges are human and are far from perfect. In any event, there comes a point when a state of saturation exists; a point where further deliberation or exploration will not help.
The Proton Therapy Waiting Room
The waiting room in the proton therapy area was warm, bright and comfortable. It did not look like a place where people were dying or waiting to die. It resembled a university campus, which is, of course, what it is. The staff adds to that atmosphere. I have never felt that way at any other hospital. Even the paperwork and financial procedures are comfortable and pleasant. There is an atmosphere of tranquility and peace that seems to be always present. I am not the only one who feels this way. There would not be 1,600-plus members of the Brotherhood, if people were not happy with the institution or members of its staff.
My wife and I met with the doctor along with a resident intern. And despite my previous frustrations, I was immediately relaxed and able to focus on the important issues. The doctor projected a warmth, understanding, and ease of communication. He understood my dilemma and carefully explained all the options. To the surprise of everyone in the room, I announced that I was ready to start proton therapy. I had a routine bone scan that afternoon and started proton therapy a few days later.
Why I Chose Proton Therapy
Why did I choose proton therapy over the other options? Reasonable question - easy answer. Conventional radiation has side effects that I was unwilling to endure. Brachytherapy is invasive; seeds migrate; impotence and incontinence are common; and the procedure is extremely practitioner dependent. Cryosurgery was new and not nearly as well documented as proton. Hormone therapy was primarily a slowing down process; I wanted my cancer destroyed. Surgery was totally invasive; the side effects and inherent dangers are common knowledge; and removing the gland doesn’t guarantee a cure. Watch and Wait - no thank you. That’s why I chose proton therapy and I’d make the same decision today, seven years later. Incidentally, my PSA is now holding steady at 0.1, down from my pretreatment level of 6.6.
The Brotherhood of the Balloon
Some final thoughts: Support the Brotherhood of the Balloon. The Brotherhood will support you. PCa not only affects men, it affects their wives and loved ones as well. All need support.
All the BOB members that I have met are truly grateful, dedicated and sincere, but none are more so than its founder Bob Marckini. No organization can flourish without a good leader. I have drawers full of all kinds of data on prostate cancer and related subjects. I read everything I could get my hands on before, during and after my experiences. The literature currently available through the Brotherhood is better than anything I have or have seen. Bob M. has the rare capability of going into a subject deeply and then organizing it and presenting it in a concise and understandable manner.
It is only after talking to and meeting Bob M. that I decided that I had to do more than I have been doing. This presentation is the first step in that direction. I have contributed and plan to continue contributing to Loma Linda’s research efforts. I encourage you to support proton therapy. And remember that proton therapy is not limited to prostate cancer. It is used for treating tumors of the brain, spinal chord, head, neck, lung, pelvis, as well as macular degeneration and soon breast cancer. Proton therapy research cannot go forward without money. Why is proton therapy worthy of consideration?
I have watched and been involved with the studies conducted at Loma Linda pertaining to proton therapy. It is done with the highest degree of professionalism. Technology involving proton therapy continues to improve. Many of our forefathers would have enjoyed longer lives had the technology been available in their time. Proton therapy has been proven effective already. Ask any member of the BOB.
When I received my award for being the 1,000th member of the Brotherhood, I was invited to attend a Proton Treatment Center International Advisory Council Meeting. At the meeting, Dr. James Slater, the pioneer of proton therapy in a hospital setting, gave a presentation showing proton treatment on part of the brain of an anesthetized rat. The complexity of the endeavor was astounding, and it was clearly shown that proton therapy could be successfully used without damage or injury to healthy organs or tissue. Dr. Slater and many others believe that proton therapy has the potential for curing many different diseases. What more need be said?
Judge William M. Auslen
Note: Shortly after sending us his testimonial, Judge Auslen sent a $10,000 check to LLUCC for the Dr. James Slater Chair for Proton Therapy Research.
The following was written by Deb Hickey, Brotherhood of the Balloon:
As mentioned above, Judge William Auslen passed away in August, 2010 from causes unrelated to prostate cancer. Just a few weeks previously, he lost his loving wife, Pat, and was devastated. Judge Auslen loved Pat deeply and was not the same after her passing.
Judge Auslen was a tireless advocate for proton technology, a major contributor to proton therapy research, and a strong supporter of the BOB organization right to the end. In fact, when he passed, the Judge left $340,000 to be used as a matching gift for proton research if we raised a like amount from BOB members. So, every gift, up to $340,000 would essentially be doubled by the Auslen challenge.
In January of 2013, we reached our goal (and then some). Gifts from BOB members came in from all over the world. We surpassed the required $340,000 to meet the Auslen Challenge. BOB member donations matched by the $340,000 estate gift from Judge Auslen resulted in more than $680,000 toward proton research at LLUCC.
We are grateful to Judge William Auslen for his generosity, his kindness, and for his friendship.