Reprinted with permission by Gerard Bartasavich. Original article is HERE.
When Gerard “Bart” Bartasavich went for his annual physical, he mentioned to his doctor that he seemed to be urinating more than normal. The doctor performed a PSA test and discovered that Bart’s levels were high. He referred Bart to a urologist who performed a biopsy. When Bart didn’t receive a quick response, he assumed the biopsy results were good. But just to be sure, he called his doctor one day while at work.
The doctor informed Bart that he had prostate cancer, and that it was aggressive.
“The phone just dropped, my mouth dropped,” Bart recalled. “I was just totally stunned.”
It was April 2008. Bart was 56 years old.
With a Gleason score of 8.0 and a PSA of 5.62, Bart was advised by his urologists that removing his prostate was the best option, but that there was a chance he would be in diapers the rest of his life and wouldn’t be able to function sexually. A urologist at a Cleveland hospital even told Bart that doing his own research on prostate cancer was a bad idea.
“The doctor told me ‘don’t Google it,’” Bart said. “So, the first thing I did was Google it!”
Bart was familiar with proton therapy because a family friend had received it in California, and he began to discuss the possible treatment with some of his doctors. One doctor informed him that it was too expensive, and another warned him that he could bleed to death due to his history of ulcerated colitis. But this was contrary to what he learned from his friend and through online research.
Due to the aggressive nature of Bart’s prostate cancer, he was rejected by another proton therapy provider. As he continued to do research he discovered the IU Health Proton Therapy Center in Bloomington, Ind., which was reasonably close to his home in Ohio.
“It was brand new, and they took the worst cases,” Bart recalled. “They were concerned about the patient, and that was the turning point for me.”
Bart’s insurance provider initially denied his treatment, so the staff at the Proton Therapy Center resubmitted the claim and won his appeal for coverage.
Bart began undergoing treatment at the IU Health Proton Therapy Center in September 2008. “Initially, I was scared to death. I was actually petrified,” he recalled. The aggressive nature of his cancer and his history with ulcerated colitis were valid concerns for Bart.
While undergoing his treatment, he met with doctors once a week to discuss the progress. Due to his ulcerated colitis, Bart had a colonoscopy midway through the process to determine if the treatment had caused any damage.
“The doctor came skipping down the hall,” Bart remembers. “He said there were no side effects from the proton radiation.”
During his treatment, Bart continued to go about his life as normally as possible. The Proton Center helped him find an apartment in Bloomington. He and his wife, Vera, would go out to eat, go for walks and enjoy the beautiful state parks in the area. They also took trips to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Nashville, and French Lick. Bart refers to it as his “radiation vacation.”
He also enjoyed being able to listen to the music of his choice during his treatment sessions, settling on some Rod Stewart classics. “I used to turn that up as loud as I could, and didn’t even realize I was getting the treatment,” he remembers.
Bart was impressed by the personable nature of the staff at the center. “It wasn’t uncommon for a doctor or one of the staff to yell out, ‘Hi Bart’,” he said. “When you were there, you felt like a friend versus a patient.”
After Bart’s successful treatment, he returned to Ohio to spend time pursuing his love of woodworking and classic Thunderbird cars. With a current PSA of 1.53, he still keeps in touch with the staff and fellow patients he met during his treatment. He is an advocate for proton therapy, and for the IU Health Proton Therapy Center.
“This center is something special,” Bart says. “I was totally impressed with the treatment I had.”