Besides skin cancer, prostate is the type of cancer most commonly diagnosed in American men.
Greg Lawless was newly retired and living the good life – fly fishing, mountain biking, banjo playing – when he became one of the 175,000 men diagnosed with prostate cancer every year.
“I thought, whoa, me?” Lawless said. “I exercise and I do all the healthy stuff that I’m supposed to do.”
But it wasn’t a mistake. The truth is that besides skin cancer, prostate is the type of cancer most commonly diagnosed in American men.
Once Lawless had learned about his cancer’s characteristics and the treatment options, he dove into research.
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“I read every test and medical journal that I could find,” Lawless said. “I think I’m the only person who’s consistently read ‘Urology Magazine’ and wasn’t a urologist.”
And Lawless learned that, “most modes of treatment would cure my prostate cancer, but it’s really the side effects that you have to focus on because there’s no guarantee that you won’t end up with impotence, incontinence, or rectal problems.”
Lawless’ doctor who was a surgeon recommended surgery, and Lawless was trying to choose between surgery and radiation when he heard about proton therapy.
“I didn’t hear about proton therapy from my urologist,” Lawless said. “I heard about it from one of my clients who runs a furniture store.”
Dr. Jing Zeng, his physician at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance Proton Therapy Center, confirmed what Lawless had heard about proton therapy and side effects. “Most patients do very well with their treatment, with mild urinary irritation and fatigue during their treatment course. They are usually able to continue their daily routine in terms of work and exercise. They typically return to their pretreatment quality of life after the treatments are completed.”
Lawless underwent treatment from November 2018 to January 2019. “He always brightened my day a little with each interaction, he was an inexhaustible source of positive energy and a delight to those around him. As we saw each other more often, we had a chance to talk more about his work and our personal lives, beyond just treating his cancer,” says Zeng.
Now Lawless is feeling good and getting back to playing banjo with his bluegrass band, the Weavils. There’s a reason Weavils is spelled with an ‘ea’ instead of an ‘ee,’ and it has to do with a positive attitude, something Lawless knows a bit about.
“My strategy in naming the band,” Lawless said, “was that the Beatles spelled their name B-E-A-T-L-E-S. So, I figured if I did the same – spell an insect name with an ea then we’d be propelled to international stardom. So far we’ve been together for 17 years and that hasn’t happened yet but we haven’t given up.”
And for Lawless, there’s still plenty of time to keep on trying.
SCCA Proton Therapy Center uses precisely targeted radiation to treat cancer while preserving surrounding healthy tissue and reducing the potential for side effects. Protons are beneficial in treating patients with a broad range of tumors, including brain, breast, lung and prostate.