Woodward, Okla. —
SON PREVIOUSLY HAD PROSTATE CANCER
Also the couple's own son Dale had been diagnosed with prostate cancer just a few years before in 2008.
At that time Rita said she had encouraged Dale to try to get proton therapy for his prostate cancer because she had recently watched a program on the Discovery Channel that discussed the benefits of proton therapy, and in particular it's ability to treat tumors precisely.
"On the Discovery Channel show they talked about a tumor that was wrapped around this person's spinal cord. With proton therapy they were able to go in and kill the tumor and not damage the spinal cord at all. I just thought that was amazing," Rita said.
However, 4 years ago, proton therapy treatment centers were even more rare than they are now. Rita said there were just 3 centers across the nation in 2008, and now there are 10 locations.
While there was a ProCure proton therapy center being built in Oklahoma in 2008, "it wasn't ready to treat patients until 2009," Rita said.
"I hate that because our son went to M. D. Anderson and they just took out his prostate," she said.
She said that while her son was young enough that his muscles could help compensate for the lack of a prostate, at the age of 75, Billy would have faced other complications, such as incontinence, if his prostate had been surgically removed.
But it wasn't just the risks of surgery that the couple wanted to avoid.
Rita explained they had been told that there was a greater chance of Billy's cancer reoccurring with regular radiation than with proton therapy.
"They said that if he had regular radiation, it would weaken the area around his bladder and colon and he could get cancer again," she said.
So the couple was glad that they could consider proton therapy as an alternative.