Proton therapy helps Ed Hines end a family legacy
Ed Hines, from Spencer, Ind., comes from good, hearty stock—a line of men who’ve lived long, productive lives. His grandfather was still walking to work every day at the insurance agency he and his son owned, until he died when he was just shy of celebrating his 100th birthday. Ed’s 86-year-old dad is retired, but is no stranger to full, busy days. And at age 62, Ed, the chief financial officer at Owen County State Bank, plans on following in the footsteps of his family’s long-living men, despite something else that seems to run in the family: prostate cancer.
“My grandpa found out he had it the last six months of his life,” says Ed, “and my dad was diagnosed in 1999.”
By the time his grandfather was diagnosed, the cancer had metastasized throughout his body. Ed’s father had radioactive seeds—a form of radiation—implanted in his prostate when he was diagnosed. That kept the cancer at bay until 2012, when it returned and spread to his bones. Although he can’t be cured, he’s undergoing hormone treatment to slow the growth.
That family history is why Ed underwent prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening every six months—an elevated PSA often indicates cancer. Over a four-year span, his level had gradually increased, but was still in the acceptable range. However, in November of 2012, his doctor said given the increase and his family history, Ed should have a biopsy.
“I figured it wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of when I was going to get it,” says Ed. “I was hoping it would be later in life, but we were prepared either way.”
The biopsy confirmed that Ed did have cancer, but his vigilant screening had caught it early.
“Out of the 12 samples they took, 11 were clean and the 12th had less than five percent of cancer cells,” says Ed.
Although he was thankful for how little they found, he says, “It’s like saying a ‘little pregnant’—even if it’s just ‘a little’ cancer, you still have cancer.”
Doctors often recommend “watchful waiting” for early-stage prostate cancer, but when Ed asked his urologist for his treatment recommendations, knowing Ed’s family history, he recommended Ed have surgery to remove his prostate.
Ed investigates other options
Although Ed scheduled an appointment with an Indiana University Health surgeon, there was another option he and his wife, Peggy, wanted to investigate—proton radiation therapy. Their son, Matt, was among the first class of radiation therapists to graduate as a proton radiation specialist from IVY Tech Community College, so they knew enough to ask about the treatment, which delivers a higher, more targeted dose of radiation with fewer side effects.
“As I wrote his tuition checks while he was going through the program, in the back of my mind I was thinking, wouldn’t it be ironic if one day my son treated me?” remembers Ed.
Matt connected them with Teresa Oldham, MD, an IU Health radiation oncologist at the Indiana University Health Proton Therapy Center, in Bloomington, Ind., where Matt works as a radiation therapist. After talking with Dr. Oldham, the surgeon, and reading the book, “You Can Beat Prostate Cancer,” by Bob Marckini, a prostate cancer survivor, the choice was clear to Ed.
“I felt strongly that I wanted the proton therapy,” says Ed. “I had a small amount of cancer that could be precisely targeted and destroyed by equipment that was only 18 miles from my home, without the long recovery or possible side effects of surgery.”
In February, Ed began what would be 44 treatments over the next three months. Because proton therapy doesn’t leave patients feeling fatigued the way traditional radiation does, Ed had the energy to maintain his work schedule while he received his daily treatments.
Ed says the friends he made at the IU Health Proton Therapy Center helped keep his energy up, too.
“I was amazed—from the receptionist who greeted me by name from the first day to Dr. Oldham, the nurses and radiation therapists—they’re super individuals, all people you’d want to be friends with.”
Ed knows now why Matt’s career choice was such a good fit for him. “He has such a caring heart,” says Ed of his son. “All the people at the IU Health Proton Therapy Center are like that. They just have that caring gene. They will work 110 percent to make you feel better.”
For Ed, it’s not just a matter of feeling better; dropping PSA levels since he finished treatment prove he is better.
“I know it’s gone for now,” he says. “I’d love a money-back guarantee that it’s gone for good, but no one can give you that. If I’m like my dad and it comes back in 15 years or so, who knows, maybe by then there will be a pill to take care of it.”
For now Ed says he’s turned his focus to helping other men learn about proton radiation as an option for fighting prostate cancer. He’s a member of the Brotherhood of the Balloon (BOB), a group of prostate cancer patients who have undergone proton radiation therapy and willingly share their proton treatment experience with others who have been diagnosed with the disease.
“One thing I want to do for the rest of my life is educate as many men as possible about the benefits of proton therapy,” says Ed. “If someone has prostate cancer, it’s an option they should know about and consider.”