Early Discovery Gave Him More Choices for Treating Prostate Cancer
Jon Obermeyer is glad that his physical exam last spring included a PSA screening test for prostate cancer. “Some doctors do not include it as a routine test,” said the active retiree. “But, for me, it was a lifesaver.”
An elevated PSA, short for prostate-specific antigen, prompted Jon to contact Urologist Glenn Kershen, M.D., who did a follow-up biopsy. When results revealed prostate cancer, Jon took a considered approach.
“It was very interesting to think that life had given me this new mission,” he said. In 2007, after 30 years of teaching, he and his wife, Anne, retired and embraced missions work for Haiti, going there twice and also shipping more than 300,000 clothing items. Just months after the effort grew so large that another couple agreed to take it on, Jon learned he had prostate cancer.
“I did a great deal of research,” he said. “I got advice from family members in the medical field, and I researched robotic prostatectomy. I knew that surgery would be one solution, but also felt that with my low Gleason score, which meant we caught it early, there were other options.”
After consulting Radiation Oncologist Rajesh Kotecha, M.D., Jon decided that radiation treatment at MidMichigan Medical Center–Midland would be his best choice. MidMichigan offers intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) using RapidArc® technology.
Jon was imaged prior to every radiation treatment. This is called image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT). This imaging allows the radiation team to accurately and precisely deliver his treatments. During treatment, the gantry of the treatment machine rotates around the patient to deliver the proper radiation dose in record time. Healthy tissue receives a minimal dose, while a higher dose goes directly to the tumor.
The couple recently moved to Midland, but lived in East Tawas when Jon was diagnosed and received his treatment. “Anne and I felt very comfortable going to MidMichigan Medical Center–Midland for any tests or procedures and, unless we were in Florida, we wouldn’t have considered going anywhere else. I had other choices for treatment closer to East Tawas, and it’s not a matter of being critical of other facilities. We just always felt that care at MidMichigan was exceptional,” he said.
Jon felt a calm confidence in his care team. “From the minute I entered the facility, I was impressed with the care, comfort and friendliness of everyone, from nurses to radiation therapists to doctors. I was not frightened, because I knew what to expect, but I was amazed to find such a caring and comforting group of people. Without exception, they were unbelievable.”
Dr. Kotecha recommended 40 short treatments, one every weekday for eight weeks, and the first step was treatment planning.
A custom form was molded to position the lower part of Jon’s body identically for every visit. During treatment, imaging would confirm his body position, staff would correct for any internal changes, then deliver the treatment, circulating around him in two arcs.
“The daily treatments took only about 10 minutes,” he said. “At each one, they asked me about fatigue, and while I did have some, I’m not sure I could attribute it to the treatment. Every week, I saw Dr. Kotecha and a nurse practitioner. A social worker also checked on me to see if I needed anything.”
To preserve his strength and energy while undergoing treatment, Jon stayed in Midland during the week and drove home weekends. The schedule gave him time to visit family members who live in town and enjoy some of Midland’s amenities.
“Midland is not just the hospital; it’s the whole package: the library, the Tridge, Midland Center for the Arts, and many restful places," he said. “I especially enjoyed spending time in Dow Gardens.”
Other than a little fatigue, there were no significant side effects from treatment and Jon felt confident about the results. “I knew that response could vary, and it could take up to 18 months for the PSA to drop significantly, but based on how I felt, and with no additional side effects, I expected my first follow-up test to show a lower PSA. When I went in for the appointment in October, I received good news! My PSA had dropped significantly!”
Jon now urges all his male friends ask their doctors for a PSA. “Years ago, PSA did not exist,” he said. “Now we can detect it early and treat it more effectively. We are very fortunate to be living in this time.”
Those interested in learning more about MidMichigan’s cancer services may visit www.midmichigan.org/cancer.
RapidArc is a registered trademark of Varian Medical Systems, Inc.