Lorenzo Abundiz, a Corona, California resident, traveled more than 1,500 miles to the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center in Houston for the treatment of prostate cancer, his third cancer diagnosis.
A 27-year veteran firefighter, Lorenzo is no stranger to being in life-threatening situations. In 1998 at the age of 44, Lorenzo would have to fight for his own life after being diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma, a rare and highly aggressive type of cancer. But it was a fight he was ready to take on.
“As a firefighter, I learned to adapt and overcome any situation,” he said. “Everyday, I was presented with and overcame new challenges. This one would be no different.”
Lorenzo completed 36 treatments of radiation therapy, which successfully treated the leiomyosarcoma. In October 2003, just one month after being declared cancer-free, Lorenzo was diagnosed with his second malignancy— bladder cancer.
He underwent surgery to remove the tumor, but then in September 2008, during a procedure to confirm that Lorenzo was completely rid of this disease, his doctor discovered prostate cancer – his third cancer diagnosis.
“I’ve seen the worst of the worst as a firefighter,” he said. “But I’ve also seen a lot of miracles, so I knew it was never hopeless and that I needed to keep fighting.”
With his third diagnosis, Lorenzo and his wife Peggy carried out extensive research together. They spoke with doctors and patients alike and eventually found proton therapy. Proton therapy is an advanced type of radiation treatment that uses a beam of protons to deliver radiation – directly to the tumor, destroying cancer cells while sparing surrounding healthy tissue and other critical areas and vital organs.
“Lorenzo was an excellent candidate for proton therapy,” explained Dr. Andrew K. Lee, associate professor of Radiation Oncology. “We were able to successfully treat his tumor and minimize radiation dosage to nearby healthy structures which leads to fewer short- and long-term side effects during and after treatment.”
Today Lorenzo is cancer-free and feeling great. Through “Code 3 for a Cure Foundation,” a non-profit organization he established, Lorenzo focuses his time memorializing firefighters who have lost their battle with cancer. He and a team of firefighters travel the U.S. and Canada in a donated fire engine educating firefighters about the risks of cancer.
“My full-time job was saving lives from fire,” he said. “Now my full-time job is to help save lives from cancer.”