After a routine PSA-test and subsequent prostate cancer diagnosis, Dave Berger considered all available treatment options. He knew he needed to be cautious, because he’d had treatment for heart complications in the past.
Dave underwent a quadruple bypass surgery in 1995. In 2019, after developing scar tissue in the stent in his artery, Dave received brachytherapy to treat the scar tissue and preserve his arteries. To reduce the risk of future blood clots and stroke, Dave now takes blood thinning medication, which ruled out the possibility of surgery. He canvassed friends and family who received other treatments for prostate cancer, carefully researching the pros and cons of each. Based on their experiences, he was concerned about the side effects of traditional radiation impacting his ability to care for his wife, Rudella, who lives with paraplegia.
He learned about proton therapy after researching online. He was particularly enthusiastic to read positive patient testimonials and learn that proton therapy can minimize short and long-term side effects and reduce the occurrence of secondary tumors. After a successful initial consultation with Jonathan Chen, MD, PhD at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center – Proton Therapy, Dave says his decision to pursue proton therapy treatment was easy.
“Dr. Chen is simply an outstanding person and doctor. The start of the consultation was not about the treatment, it was about getting to really know me, the patient, the person,” Dave recalls. “He will always take time to address any questions or concerns. He provided a great roadmap of the steps and process. I was also very impressed with the teams that supported him.”
71-year-old Dave lives with Rudella (affectionately known as “Rudy”) on the Oregon Coast, just south of Tillamook. The retired couple had spent three summers traveling across the continental U.S., Canada and Alaska in a trailer equipped with all the necessary medical accommodations for Rudy and Dave, her primary caretaker. When he decided to treat his prostate cancer at Fred Hutch he said, “It was like taking another vacation.” Now it was time to take the trailer to Washington state.
At his first few appointments, Dave was impressed with the detailed treatment plans provided by his care team. As an engineer, he’s used to detailed plans, and being privy to that and knowing all aspects of his treatment beforehand made Dave confident that Dr. Chen and his care team were making the best decisions for him.
He found proton therapy easy to handle. Rudy adds that Dave was not slowed down by his treatment, continuing to care for her and their poodle after returning home from appointments. She advises partners who are supporting a cancer patient to have a positive mood whenever possible. While the trailer was a big change from their oceanfront property, Rudy did all she could to create and maintain a relaxing environment for Dave when he returned.
“Be open to turning your life upside down for a while and working together to make decisions,” Rudy says.
Dave wrapped up his treatment in late 2020 and is back in Tillamook. He encourages others to receive PSA screenings based on their physican’s guidance rather than avoiding it. He’s glad he caught his cancer due to regular screenings and urges others to take the steps needed to protect themselves.
For cancer patients, Dave highly recommends looking into proton therapy as an option. After hearing and reading testimonies of patients of all ages, Dave says he is in awe of the capabilities of Fred Hutch’s proton therapy staff.
“My entire experience at Fred Hutch has been nothing short of excellent. They truly are exceptional individuals, making up a remarkable team,” says Dave. “Many thanks to the entire group at Fred Hutch.”
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