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Meet Our Survivors: Gerard First

They say the third time’s the charm. And three is how many biopsies it took for doctors to confirm that Gerard First had prostate cancer.

When Gerard, a 57-year-old Houston resident, visited his primary care physician for an annual check-up in 2007, he discovered his PSA level was slightly elevated for his age and was referred to a urologist. After an initial negative biopsy and another year with an elevated PSA, his doctor took another biopsy. It too was negative.

“Even though I had two negative biopsies, my doctor suggested a third,” said Gerard. “It’s not exactly a comfortable procedure, so I didn’t see much need in getting, what I felt, was an unnecessary test when the first two came back negative.”

But after seeing prostate cancer ads and hearing a radio commercial about treatments for prostate cancer, Gerard felt a greater force was urging him to have another biopsy taken. So in July 2008, he went back to his urologist for his third biopsy.

It came back positive for prostate cancer.

Knowing the potential side effects associated with prostate cancer treatment, Gerard took his time to find the treatment option that was right for him. In researching available options, he became aware of proton therapy and the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center.

He liked what he read about proton therapy and was heavily weighing the option, but it was while traveling for work that it became clear that proton therapy was the route he should take.

“The gentleman sitting next to me on the plane sold medical equipment to the proton center, and he kept talking about the treatment and the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center,” Gerard said. And that’s when it hit him. “MD Anderson, was always the benchmark standard of treatment all other facility referred to in treating cancer. Why would I go anywhere else?”

Gerard began his proton therapy treatment in late October of 2008 and completed it in December—38 treatments later. Of his experience at the Proton Therapy Center, Gerard says, “It was phenomenal. The best doctor-patient experience I could ever have.”

Gerard’s physician, Seungtaek Choi, MD and assistant professor of Radiation Oncology at the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center said “Gerard’s active lifestyle was perfect for proton therapy treatment. It’s always a pleasure to see patients living their life as they did before cancer treatment and knowing we were able to help him continue doing what he loves is very satisfying.”

Maintaining his quality of life was very important to Gerard, and that’s what ultimately led him to choose proton therapy. The only side effect he experienced was fatigue, but he says that went away soon after treatment.

Now, more than three years after completing proton therapy for prostate cancer, he says, “my life is exactly how it was before my diagnosis and before treatment.”

Between his six-month check ups, Gerard works in the veterinary medical field where he builds equipment for the horse race industry, which requires a lot of travel. When he’s not traveling for work he enjoys being outdoors.

“I love Harleys and horses,” said Gerard of his passion for motorcycles and horseback riding.

He also enjoys spending time with his wife, Jody, and their three daughters Carissa, 28, Jessica, 27, and Kendall, 17, as well as his five-year-old grandson, Cayden.

When asked what he would tell other men facing a prostate cancer diagnosis Gerard says, “You must investigate and understand the pros and cons of every treatment option appropriate for your stage of the disease. And if it were me, I wouldn’t walk; I would run to the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center.”

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Meet Our Survivors

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Since treating our first patient in May 2006, the dedicated team at the Proton Therapy Center has helped countless patients overcome cancer and get back to living their lives. Click here to read our patient survivor stories.


© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center