Treated 2011 · Posted 2016
"Our experience at LLUCC was certainly the most positive medical experience of our lives."
I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in January 2011. However, I did not have to "dig out" Loma Linda University Cancer Center and proton therapy. A good friend and neighbor who was diagnosed two years earlier had come over for coffee about an hour after getting his diagnosis. He had already done some research on an "if-then" basis. He had a copy of Bob Marckini's book in his hand. He directed, rather than asked, me to read it and get back to him to discuss it. I did and it made a huge impact. Even before my friend and I discussed it, I told my wife, if I ever had prostate cancer, I was calling LLUCC for proton therapy.
So, when my positive diagnosis hit home that January, I emailed LLUCC for the packet of information and records they needed. In the greatest "you've got to be kidding" moment in my life (and likely for all of us with the news we have prostate cancer) my urologist told me, "you have lots of time to make a treatment decision." That "waiting" concept was not believable and I didn't want to wait. However, in planning the best time for us to be gone from home and family in Alaska, we did not take some significant facts into consideration. Our discussion led to a mid-summer start at LLUCC, so I scheduled an early July trip to campus. Even then the lightbulb didn't turn on and my wife, Jacqueline, and I loaded our RV and left Ester on July 14.
Our trip was fun. We stopped to see friends and family along the way. I finally tripped to the weather factor when we stopped for the night, just east of Bakersfield, CA on the 28th of July. If I remember correctly, it was 103 degrees and we would have had more shade from a broomstick than the "tree" in the campground. After 50 years in Alaska we just don't do well in really hot weather. Driving over the hill and joining I 15 at the US 395 junction the next afternoon, it was only 100 degrees. The traffic was at 5 mph or less because of an accident and by the time we reached Loma Linda it was 109! Might have waited a bit to start in the fall.
Culture shock for those of us used to dressing up for minus 40! There is a definite limit to how far down you can dress!
Even before orientation at the proton center, we joined other couples in "proton row" in the RV park down on Redlands Blvd. A dozen men who were in proton treatment were our closest neighbors. Our next space neighbors were from near Fresno, CA and were used to RV camping in hot weather. With a few adjustments to our coach, we settled in. We now laugh about having rain on the evening we arrived and then not seeing any more until just before we left in mid October.
Starting treatment is always stressful but the LLUCC staff was so helpful that both my wife and I settled in quickly. Including Jacque in everything we did helped her deal with her own stress of knowing I had a potentially fatal disease. By week three, Dr. Martell was seating newcomers to treatment at our Wednesday night table knowing we would tell stories that would help relieve their stress.
As you hear so often, we made some great friends at LLUCC. We've been emailing and calling back and forth this month as we have all cleared the five years post treatment point.
Our experience at LLUCC was certainly the most positive medical experience of our lives. We spent a few extra hours while there discussing things Alaskan with Dr. Lynn Martell who lived in Alaska in his early ministry. He would close his eyes as in looking back and talk about salmon fishing experiences and other Alaskan exploits.
In the five years since my treatment, my PSA has virtually flatlined at 0.3 and I enjoy overall excellent health. Even get out to help my son-in-law bring in a moose each September for the family's freezers. I began talking with other men facing the prostate treatment options virtually the week we returned home to Alaska. They are referred by friends and even some of the local doctors we know, always after they have called to ask if it's okay with me.
Jaqueline and I read every BOB Tales newsletter and help with LLUCC projects when we can. We are retired and spend our time helping with grandchildren and community and spend summers fishing on Alaska's famous Copper River. We wish the BOB nothing but the best and please keep the great work going.
Below is a photo of Mike and Jacqueline in San Diego escaping the January Alaska weather: