When Gerard Bartasavich went for his annual physical exam, he mentioned to his doctor that he seemed to be urinating more than normal. A few days later, out of nowhere, he learned he had aggressive prostate cancer.
It was April 2008 when Bart discovered he was sick. He was 56 years old. “The phone just dropped, my mouth dropped,” he recalled. “I was just totally stunned.” Soon, he was advised by his urologists that removing his prostate was the best option, even if there was a chance he would need diapers for the rest of his life, and that he wouldn’t be able to function sexually.
Bart was familiar with proton therapy, as a family friend had received it in California, and he began to discuss the possible treatment with some of his doctors, who advised against it (too expensive, too dangerous regarding his medical history,…). He kept on searching, but due to the aggressive nature of his prostate cancer, Bart was rejected by a first proton therapy provider.
Then he discovered the IU Health Proton Therapy Center in Bloomington, Ind., which was reasonably close to his home in Ohio. “It was brand new, and they took the worst cases,” Bart recalled. “They were concerned about the patient, and that was the turning point for me.”
Bart began undergoing treatment at the IU Health Proton Therapy Center in September 2008. “Initially, I was scared to death. I was actually petrified.” During his treatment, Bart continued to go about his life as normally as possible. He and his wife, Vera, would go out to eat, go for walks and enjoy the beautiful state parks in the area. Bart refers to it as his “radiation vacation.”
Bart was impressed by the personable nature of the staff at the center. “It wasn’t uncommon for a doctor or one of the staff to yell out, ‘Hi Bart’,” he said. “When you were there, you felt like a friend versus a patient.”
After Bart’s successful treatment, he returned to Ohio to spend time pursuing his love of woodworking and classic Thunderbird cars. He still keeps in touch with the staff and fellow patients he met during his treatment. He is an advocate for proton therapy. “I was totally impressed with the treatment I had.”