When Joe Landry’s younger brother was diagnosed with prostate cancer, his time and attention turned to helping his brother find the best care and treatment for the cancer. His research and resourcefulness paid off, as Joe was diagnosed with prostate cancer a year later.
A retiree, Joe had spent 37 years with an oil and gas company and, with the exception of periodic bouts with prostatitis and kidney stones, he’d enjoyed 70 years in pretty good health. However, he knew from previous annual exams that his prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels were steadily increasing each year.
During a regular annual visit with his urologist, Joe’s PSA level alarmed doctors and a biopsy confirmed their suspicions. He was diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer and was given the option of three months of “watchful waiting” to consult with doctors and consider his options for treatment.
While he weighed his options – radical surgery and various forms of radiation therapy – Joe had a serendipitous encounter with an old friend. “I ran into a friend at the health club who I hadn’t seen in about seven years,” Joe remembers. “He looked like he was in great shape as he worked out on the Stairmaster. He had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and been treated at a proton therapy center. He had nothing but positive results and experiences to report. A radiation vacation is what he called it.“
Shortly afterward, Joe self-referred to MD Anderson’s Proton Therapy Center. With the help of a patient advocate, he was able to schedule an appointment quickly, even during the busy holiday season, and consulted with Dr. Andrew Lee, a prostate cancer specialist and associate professor of Radiation Oncology at MD Anderson.
After discussing the options of watchful waiting, brachytherapy (another form of radiation therapy) and proton therapy, Joe determined that proton therapy would offer him the fewest side effects, if any. However, what struck him most was care he received during treatment.”
“I never expected to be treated quite so individually,” Joe said. “The doctors and nurses respond quickly to calls and questions, and they’re attentive to your individual needs and concerns. They do this consistently, as friends I’ve referred have had the same experience with the staff.”
Joe received 42 treatments over the course of 8½ weeks. Other than minor urinary irritation, he had no problems and was so pleased with the process and his subsequent results that he formed ProtonPals, a support and outreach group for Proton Therapy Center patients. The group keeps past and current patients abreast of treatment advances, advocates and educates patients about radiation therapy and provides an informed network of support and friendship.
Starting the group was important to Joe because he wanted to stay in touch with the new friends he’d made during treatment and to provide education and support to the newly diagnosed. “I wanted to ‘pay it forward’ by supporting the next guy who walked in my shoes,” he said. “Man-to-man - or as we say in the ProtonPals, pal-to-pal.”