Friend’s regret about prostate surgery moves Wisconsin man to protons

You could say it was a good friend’s buyer’s remorse that prompted Bill Friedlander to change the course of his cancer care.

Diagnosed with prostate cancer in early 2013, the retired organic chemist was all set to begin photon radiation treatments. “I had the appointments and they gave me the Lupron,” he said. Lupron is taken to stop testosterone production in preparation for prostate cancer radiation treatments.

“But in the meantime, I was in contact with a friend,” Friedlander continued. “He had prostate cancer surgery. And his result was less than satisfactory. So, he was looking at other options had he not had surgery. And he suggested protons.”

Interestingly, none of the physicians Friedlander had consulted ever mentioned proton therapy, “particularly the urologist types.”

Like many newly diagnosed cancer patients, Friedlander turned to the Web and learned about the benefits and risks of proton treatments for prostate cancer. He phoned several proton centers from his Wisconsin home to see if his stage of prostate cancer could be treated with protons. One center mailed a copy of Robert Marckini’s book, You Can Beat Prostate Cancer. “If you read that book, there really is no other option worth considering,” Friedlander noted. “That was another point that convinced me.”

Every proton center he phoned appeared willing to consider Friedlander’s case until “I said I had an artificial hip. They said, ‘No, we can’t treat you.’ ”

Protons, he learned, are typically beamed through each hip to reach the prostate and deliver their cancer-killing energy. An artificial hip is a barrier to the proton beam.

But doctors at CDH Proton Center, A ProCure Center in Warrenville, Illinois, said they had a proton beam setup that could deliver proton beams to accommodate Friedlander’s artificial left hip. They would still deliver protons laterally through his right hip. But radiation technicians would shoot more protons from the proton beam nozzle elevated at a 60-degree angle to the groin — something akin to that scene in the 1960s James Bond movie, Goldfinger, absent the malicious intent.

Friedlander began nine weeks of treatments in April 2013. “The first treatment is a bit surprising, because you don’t know what to expect,” he noted. “You’ve left your modesty at the door.”

After about a half-hour of setup time “where you’re positioned on that table within 2 millimeters of where they want you to be,” the radiation technician triggered the proton beam. It was over before he knew it, Friedlander recalled. “The technician said, ‘Okay, you’re done now.’ It was absolutely painless.”

Like so many other men who have survived prostate cancer due to proton therapy, Friedlander is a huge advocate for the treatment. His PSA levels are back to normal. “And there were absolutely zero side effects, as far as I’m concerned,” Friedlander said. “The only thing was a little red spot where the beam was shot in. But that’s gone away.”

Friedlander contended that protons are effective against prostate cancers that are contained. “My doctors went through a great deal of examination to see there were no other hot spots in my body,” he said. “That the cancer hadn’t spread.”

A scientist by training, Friedlander offered this advice to newly diagnosed cancer patients: “The kind of treatment you pick has to be tailored to your particular cancer. For my cancer, I was certain that proton therapy was the answer.”