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Jeff - Prostate Cancer

Jeff - Prostate Cancer

Jeff (in blue), a Spokane graphic designer, photographer, and softball umpire, has been pretty healthy his entire 60 plus years. He saw his doctor regularly, and because of that, discovered a rise in his PSA number in 2016, though he'd never had any symptoms. Due to knee surgery and several umpiring engagements, he didn't have further tests done until later in the year.

"My wife Edna joined me at the appointment to discuss the biopsy results. To everyone's surprise, they revealed cancer," says Jeff. "Dr. Levi Deters assured us that we caught this very early, and several options were available for treatment. Edna and I agreed that surgery was best, and I had a successful robotic prostatectomy in 2016. The post-surgery report indicated the prostate margins weren't perfect. They would monitor my PSA closely over the next couple of years. Life returned to normal with little post-op discomfort or symptoms."

By July 2019, however, his PSA had risen again and the following February, it went even higher. Jeff wasn't worried, though. He figured Dr. Deters would call if anything were amiss. "I felt fine except for dealing with a long bout of food poisoning," says Jeff. It took months to recover, and Jeff hadn't had another PSA test in a long time. His next test showed a significant rise, and Dr. Deters advised Jeff to see a radiation oncologist, which he did.

"The radiation oncologist wanted me to sign a document acknowledging the possible undesirable side effects of radiation therapy," says Jeff. "You begin to wonder if that's the right choice when that is their focus."

However, surgery to correct the lingering effects of the food poisoning took precedent, and that gave Jeff and Edna some time to reflect, discuss and explore what other options he might have. During that time, two significant people helped his decision-making process. Their friend, a vibrant, young Spokane mother of three, had received treatment at the SCCA Proton Therapy Center following removal of a brain astrocytoma three years prior. She was doing very well and looked fantastic. She and her husband, an ER physician, spoke very highly of the Center. They suggested that Jeff find out if he might be a good candidate.

Secondly, while doing some online prostate cancer research, he came across the oncologist who had treated both his father and father-in-law some years ago, Dr. Bruce Cutter. Even though prostate cancer wasn't his specialty, he explained everything in detail. Dr. Cutter didn't know if CyberKnife – offered at his clinic - was appropriate but did discuss the pros and cons of photon as well as proton therapies. "Dr. Cutter was not optimistic that my insurance would cover proton therapy, but he encouraged us to explore that option" says Jeff. He and his wife contacted the SCCA Proton Therapy Center, had a consult with Dr. Jonathan Chen, and felt that proton therapy sounded promising.

They came away very impressed after their meeting with Dr. Chen. They even had a plan if their insurance carrier denied coverage for protons. By the end of December 2019, Jeff had finalized all the treatment appointments, travel and housing, insurance coverage, sick leave, job responsibilities, doggy daycare, and other details. He had an apartment at SCCA House and would come home to Spokane as often as possible.

"For my daily treatments, I gave myself plenty of time to drink my water and read in the lobby. Most of the time, this worked out as planned. I gave myself a score after each treatment; was I the model patient? Was my preparation correct? One of my goals on treatment days was to get some exercise by walking around Green Lake, but with a full bladder, you find that there are not enough bathrooms there!"

Edna, their daughter Lauren, and Lauren's fiancé Brian also visited Jeff in Seattle for Super Bowl weekend and did some sightseeing. As a dedicated photographer, Jeff's camera was never far away. He took many beautiful photos to document his treatment in Seattle and all the sights around Puget Sound. He even compiled a photo book of his experience, called "Faith, Family, Friends, Ferns." Check it out at: https://online.fliphtml5.com/qzegb/orcy/


A beautiful shot of the Seattle skyline with iconic Space Needle and Mt. Rainier.

We love this dusk photo of the Center with Seattle in the distance.

The Center is full of images of ferns, which has healing properties and is native to the Pacific Northwest.

"On Thursday, March 5, 2020, I completed the last of my 39 treatments, and I'd had minimal side effects. I feel extremely fortunate and blessed." Because of the rising concern of COVID-19, the Center decided to cancel all graduation ceremonies, but he did receive his unique challenge coin, number 2864.  He appreciates this because they have similar coins in the umpiring world. He gave umpiring challenge coins to his treatment team in return. Jeff's PSA is now at 0.005, and he and Dr. Chen are ecstatic with those results.

A final thought Jeff wants to share is: "Don't let the mountains be a barrier. Living in Spokane, I had no idea proton therapy existed, but it wasn’t hard to find housing and figure out insurance challenges. Edna and I want folks outside the I-5 corridor to feel that it's accessible, and to explore and question traditional treatments. I'd be happy to speak with potential patients who want to find out more."