Maybe it’s the bright blue Mohawk that catches people’s attention. Maybe it’s the prostate cancer ribbon on the back of his head. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s the gray sweatshirt with the words “Get Your Man Gland Checked” written out in blue letters that stops people in their tracks. Either way, Randy Heim is getting attention, and that is exactly what he wants.
Randy, a 57-year-old prostate cancer survivor, wants people to know about prostate cancer, or the “silent killer” as he calls the disease (and is also what is written on the other side of that gray sweatshirt). The Etna, Ohio resident was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in October 2018, and since his final treatment that December, he has been a huge advocate for men getting their prostate-specific antigen (PSA) prostate screenings and making sure they know ALL the prostate cancer treatment options available to them.
It was one of those screenings that saved his life. Randy suffers from Thrombocytopenia, a condition in which you have a low blood platelet count, so he has to undergo blood tests every six months. Having a history of prostate cancer in his family, Randy knew how important the blood tests were and made sure to pay attention to the results.
After the biopsy his urologist performed came back positive for prostate cancer, Randy wanted him to discuss his treatment options with him.
“My urologist said I could have my prostate taken out, have the seeds implanted (brachytherapy), or go through 40 rounds of radiation,” Randy said. “Where I worked there were two people that had CyberKnife treatment for their prostate cancer and they were both fine, so I asked him about CyberKnife, to which he replied that there is not enough history with CyberKnife to make it a treatment option that he recommended.”
In addition to speaking with his coworkers about their positive CyberKnife experience, Randy did his own research and found that the CyberKnife® System, which the FDA cleared for prostate tumors back in 2001, was clinically proven to be a good treatment option with excellent survival rates.
Randy chose CyberKnife for the treatment of his prostate cancer, but before he began his CyberKnife treatments, his radiation oncologist, Douglas W. Widman, M.D., Medical Director at Columbus CyberKnife, recommended that Randy undergo a SpaceOAR® Hydrogel procedure.
SpaceOAR, which stands for Spacing Organs at Risk, hydrogel is a gel that is injected into place prior to the start of radiation treatment that acts as a spacer providing space between the rectum and the prostate, making it much less likely that the rectum is exposed to radiation. It is called a hydrogel because it contains mostly water and it is not broken down by radiation, so the radiation does not change the hydrogel’s chemical properties, safety, or effectiveness. The hydrogel remains in place during the length of radiation treatment but is then absorbed into the body and excreted through the patient’s urine. Nothing is left behind and there are no negative side effects. The procedure takes about 30 minutes and is typically done in a hospital, surgery center, or doctor’s office, and patients should be able to immediately resume their normal activities after the procedure.
“I think SpaceOAR gives physicians that extra degree of confidence when delivering severe hypofractionated doses of radiation near the prostate-rectum interface,” said Dr. Widman. “It also appeals to the patient’s desire to make the radiation therapy experience as safe as possible.”
Randy had his SpaceOAR procedure on October 29, 2018, and was ready to begin his CyberKnife treatments the next month.
“When I went in for my first CyberKnife treatment, I was nervous,” Randy said. “Then I got in there and the staff was fantastic and put me at ease. They explained everything to me, we had some good laughs, they put on some music that I enjoyed and I laid back and slept. No pain, no discomfort, the whole treatment went really smoothly.”
Randy’s treatment plan included five CyberKnife sessions that took place November 26 through December 2, 2018. Each treatment lasted about an hour and he recalls the treatments being quick and easy.
After his treatments, Randy said he felt fine and that the treatments did not interfere with his life or his normal daily routine.
“The treatments didn’t slow me down at all,” Randy said. “In fact, I never even missed a day of work. I got my treatments and went right into work.”
Today, Randy says he is doing fine and feels like he never even had prostate cancer. He is enjoying life and watched his PSA score drop from 4.4 to .5, which he was very happy about.
When asked if he would recommend Columbus CyberKnife to others facing a prostate cancer diagnosis, Randy replied, “In a heartbeat. It was the best medical experience I have ever had. As a matter of fact, I’ve already talked to two people that I that have been diagnosed into getting CyberKnife treatment. I feel that strongly about it.”