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Patient StoriesProstate CancerProton TherapySurvivorship

Surviving, and Thriving, in the Face of Prostate Cancer

Faced with a late-in-life diagnosis of prostate cancer, Bill Sneddon describes his positive experience with Proton therapy, the emerging alternative treatment to standard x-ray radiation.
June 2017 Vol 3 No 3
Bill Sneddon
Toms River, NJ

Living an active life has always just been who I am. For 34 years, I worked for the Ocean Township police department, which certainly kept me busy. As a retiree, I’ve embraced many new hobbies and volunteer commitments. For example, I’m chair of my local planning board, I golf, I love photography, and I’ve developed a knack for website design. Not to mention my passion for trips around the country by motorcycle, which are especially fun when my granddaughter accompanies me.

Choosing My Treatment

So imagine my surprise when, in 2012, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. My doctor told me I would need to pursue treatment, and I was suddenly faced with an overwhelming decision. Several options are available for treating prostate cancer, and I wasn’t sure which one would be right for me. With my busy schedule, I feared that cancer treatment would slow me down. I didn’t want my life to change.

I sat down with my urologist in my hometown in Toms River, NJ, and reviewed my options: standard radiation therapy or surgery. Like many men facing prostate cancer, I was greatly put off by the possible side effects from these treatments, mainly in the form of incontinence and gastrointestinal issues.

How was I to live my active life and meet my commitments while facing these side effects and other potential issues? Then the term “proton therapy” came up in conversation with a good friend. I researched it at his encouragement, and was relieved by what I found.

Proton therapy is also radiation, but unlike standard x-ray radiation, when a proton beam hits a tumor, it delivers most of its energy there, with no “exit dose.” For prostate cancer, which is in such a sensitive area, this decreases the likelihood of the short- and long-term side effects that initially made me apprehensive.

Avoiding Side Effects: Finding Help Through Technology and a Positive Attitude

Even though I’m in my seventies, I wanted a shot at long-term health. I wanted to maintain my very good quality of life. I realized that proton therapy was the path to choose for me. I began treatment at a local facility shortly thereafter.

I was able to maintain my active lifestyle, avoiding the side effects that I had so feared when my cancer journey began.

Treatment for prostate cancer doesn’t have to be unpleasant, if you don’t let it be. With the combination of a technology I believed in, and a positive attitude, I turned a negative situation into a rewarding one.

Nearly 4 years after completing treatment, I’m still cancer-free, with a low PSA level that has remained the same since my cancer treatment.

Becoming a Patient Ambassador

I even added a new role to my roster of activities—ProCure Patient Ambassador—through which I educate men about navigating the complex web of treatment options for prostate cancer.

My ultimate advice as a Patient Ambassador is: Do your research, become an empowered patient, identify a treatment plan that enables you to stay active, and find a caring and supportive community to guide you through the process.

According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men in the United States; about 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with the illness during his lifetime. It is also estimated that 161,360 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 2017.

We need to be proactive about this disease, and to speak candidly and openly about something that affects so many men. Let’s honor ourselves, the men around us, and the fight against prostate cancer by helping men and their loved ones get educated and empowered to live healthy and active lives.

Keep in Mind

  • About 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime, making it the second most common cancer among men in the US
  • Proton therapy is a treatment option that may minimize short- and long-term side effects that arise as with other therapy options, such as standard x-ray radiation
  • We need to be proactive about prostate cancer, and to speak candidly and openly about a disease that affects so many men
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