“More Good Years"

Mike Dresel poses with his wife, Donna, after completing proton therapy treatment at Thompson Proton Center in Knoxville, TN.
Mike Dresel smiles with his wife, Donna Von Bargen, after ringing the bell at Thompson Proton Center. The bell-ringing signifies completing his 42 sessions of proton therapy after being treated for prostate cancer.

Man Beats Prostate Cancer after Treatment from Proton Therapy Center

After surviving a heart attack in his early forties, Mike Dresel knew not to take his good health for granted. That’s why when he received a prostate cancer diagnosis in his sixties, he dove head-first into researching proton therapy so he could make an informed decision where to receive care.

Mike and his wife Donna did extensive research on treatments for prostate cancer and were particularly concerned with effectiveness and quality of life after treatment. They considered surgery, traditional radiation and proton therapy.

The North Carolina resident says, “Proton therapy sounded like it was the easiest thing to tolerate with the least amount of side effects. I looked into several clinics. We chose Thompson Proton Center because they came recommended to us and it was somewhat close to home. Also, they immediately followed up with me, and that made the difference.”

At Thompson Proton Center

Mike spoke on the phone with Brion Shin, MD, radiation oncologist at Thompson Proton Center in Knoxville. Dr. Shin, who has also worked with conventional radiation therapy, says, “Because I’ve worked with both therapies, I can give patients a unique perspective on the advantages or disadvantages of both proton therapy and radiation therapy. Most of the time, proton therapy has a clear advantage, but we look at each case individually to determine the best course of action.”

Dr. Shin explains, “Regular or conventional radiation is X-ray based, so the beam goes in one side and out the other side. The person’s tissue receives radiation exposure through the entire path of the radiation beam. Whereas with proton therapy, it’s a different type of radiation called charged particle radiation, different than X-ray technology.”

He says, “Because of specific properties, we are able to control the beam so it stops where the cancer is. We can prevent excess exposure to the normal tissue and surrounding organs, which in the case of patients with prostate cancer, are the bladder and rectum. Proton therapy spares radiation exposure to those areas and can reduce problems in the future caused by radiation including secondary malignancy.”

Mike was prescribed nine weeks of proton therapy, which he completed while staying in Knoxville. Because the couple lives out of state, they received help finding furnished housing for the two months of his treatment. He and his wife were grateful for this level of help finding housing, a service is offered by Thompson Proton Center.

Never a Question Unanswered

As a retired research psychologist and PhD, Mike had lots of questions for his providers. He liked that the staff explained everything that was happening at all times; not just about his course of treatment, but how the machines and technology worked. The retiree did experience mild fatigue, which is the most common side effect of proton therapy.

“I appreciated Dr. Shin’s approach,” Mike shares. “I felt I had input. I had my tasks to do each day before treatment. I’d come in and get on the table, and they’d position me just so, and then that day’s treatment was finished quickly.

“I felt somewhat in control of the plan because the doctor laid out the options, and I had a choice in how to proceed. The staff were careful to include Donna and answer her questions, too. They knew we were tackling this together, as a team.”

Kind, Compassionate Care

He adds, “All the staff there were very kind. They answered all my questions, continued to check and made sure they watched any symptoms, and were very sure of their process. I even observed a few times other patients in the waiting area who came in without someone with them. If they were lonely or needed someone to talk to, the front desk workers would talk to them cheerfully. Everyone was compassionate and treated everyone with respect.”

Dr. Shin says, “It’s important that our patients have a good understanding of their diagnosis and the treatment that’s being recommended. By having that knowledge, it builds trust between the patient and the physician as well as the rest of the staff helping to provide that care. The better that relationship, the more positive mental attitude we see, which leads to more optimal outcomes and the patient can better tolerate the treatment.”

Mike Dresel, former prostate cancer patient, is enjoying life after cancer following his proton therapy treatments.
Mike Dresel, retired research psychologist and author, chose Thompson Proton Center for his cancer care. He and his wife, Donna, are thankful for the kind, compassionate care they received and are looking forward to more time with family (or looking forward to “life after cancer.”)

Vacation Planning

Dr. Shin says Mike has responded well to treatment. The father and grandfather feels he has been given some more good years with his children and grandchildren.

Mike and Donna had a four-week trip planned for the Pacific Northwest beginning just after Labor Day. “Being able to visit friends and family was important, so we wanted to keep the trip as planned,” he says.

After 42 sessions of proton therapy, Mike was able to ring the bell at the completion of his treatments and take his vacation with his wife. Because the cancer cells had not spread to other body parts, his doctors expect him to make a full recovery.

Prostate-Specific Antigen tests are a blood test that can implicate the presence of prostate cancer. This blood test is recommended annually for men ages 50 and up or as early as age 40 if you have a family history of prostate cancer. For more information about Proton Therapy, visit ThompsonProtonCenter.com.


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