As a professional carpenter and an amateur mechanic, George Thomas likes to understand how things work -- what's going on inside. No surprise he would apply that same approach when diagnosed with prostate cancer earlier this year.
Thomas exasperated doctors with probing questions, as he and his wife June (a nurse), researched the disease and its many treatment options.
"I had to thoroughly understand this disease so I knew what was the best treatment for me," says the 65-year-old retiree. "Both of the urologists I saw were recommending surgery, but it just wasn't squaring with me. Four hours on the operating table and months of recovery. There had to be a better way."
George and June found that better way through a friend at church, whose husband had also been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
"This guy's a banker with a big job," George says. "He did all the research, too and found out he could get the same results if not better with proton therapy. And he could continue working with almost no disruption to his work by scheduling his therapy early in the morning."
Thomas' friend recommended a book, You Can Beat Prostate Cancer and You Don't Need Surgery to Do It by Robert J. Markini, a prostrate cancer survivor. June and George went to work, reading the book and scouring the internet for more information on proton therapy. It all seemed to make sense to Thomas.
"The whole idea behind proton therapy is that the radiation zeros in on the cancer cells rather than blasting away at healthy cells. Since no other organs are affected, there's no nausea of fatigue."
Thomas finished his 44 day treatment (with breaks on the weekends) on October 17. While the daily treatments last just minutes, commuting from Barrington the CDH Proton Center, A ProCure Center in Warrenville and prep time at the center ate up time. But for Thomas, time he spent prepping or waiting for treatment offered another type of therapy. The congeniality and kindness of other cancer patients helped him realized that he was not alone in his quest to find kinder, gentler cancer treatment.
"Some of the stories I heard were so sad," says Thomas. "People with all sorts of harsh side effects from surgery and standard radiation were getting better now with proton therapy. It was like we all knew we were on to something better in cancer treatment."
Thomas will return to the center in January for test results, but he looks and feels healthy.
"I feel great. I haven't missed a beat doing the things I enjoy, like working in the yard and fixing up my cars."
A lifetime auto enthusiast, Thomas owns several late model Fords including a powder blue 1964 Ford Galaxie. His favorite Barrington events are the Thursday Cruise Nights were he can show off his cars and talk with other car hobbyists. June and George look forward to spending time with their daughter, a luxury boat captain in Florida and their son, a local carpenter, over the holidays.
"It was hard when we first got the diagnosis, but I just feel like we made the right decision for my health," he says. "When you read that Mayo Clinic is investing more than $300 million in a new proton therapy center, you know you're on to something good."