Seven years ago, Don Schapeler of Liberty, Missouri, was diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer.
Fortunately for the now 67-year-old, his urologist recommended "active surveillance," allowing him to avoid possible side effects from treatment and potentially benefit down the road as new technology and options emerged.
Last summer, a biopsy indicated that his condition had progressed and he was referred to a Kansas City-area radiation oncologist, who prescribed a course of 43 doses of standard radiation delivered over a period of eight and a half weeks.
But fortunately for Don, he had heard about CyberKnife from his nephew, who works for the manufacturer of the non-surgical, non-invasive radiation therapy system.
Don liked the idea of a high-dose prostate cancer treatment so precise that it could be delivered in just five treatments. If he were to need treatment, he decided, he would want it done with CyberKnife, the first and only fully robotic radiotherapy device that uses speed, precision and motion synchronization technology to treat tumors and benign lesions throughout the body.
"I wanted to come out of this as normal as I possibly could and I felt like this was my best chance to do that," he says.
So after learning that CyberKnife wasn't available in the Kansas City area, he reached out to his nephew, who sent him a video about the new CyberKnife ® S7™ System recently installed on Ascension Via Christi's St. Francis hospital campus.
"I said, 'Yeah, that's the one I want.'"
Don then spoke with the radiation oncology team at Ascension Via Christi, who obtained and reviewed his medical records, and scheduled a virtual meeting with radiation oncologist David Bryant, MD, who leads the team, all within 48 hours of his initial call.
Dr. Bryant met with Don and determined that he was an appropriate candidate for treatment with CyberKnife. Additionally, the team would use the SpaceOAR system to inject a soft, gel-like material to temporarily position his anterior rectal wall away from his prostate, providing an extra layer of protection.
On Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, Don and his wife, Alicia, checked into a Wichita hotel. At 8 a.m. the following morning, he checked in at the Ascension Via Christi CyberKnife Center for treatment.
Dressed in a pair of gym shorts and a T-shirt, he laid down on the table. His treatment with CyberKnife took just 18 minutes to complete and he was soon off to enjoy a big breakfast and make plans for the day, which for the next three days included rounds of golf, swimming in the hotel pool and a light dinner in preparation for his treatment the following morning.
That Friday, Don and Alicia headed home, happy with the personalized care and attention he received from the team.
"They were very responsive and it's been a very positive experience," he says, noting that a five-day trip to Wichita, Kansas, was far less life interrupting than 43 trips for treatment in Independence, Missouri. "It's amazing how easy it was. It couldn't get any easier."
Now, nearly a year later his PSA numbers continue to be right where they need to be, he says. Plus, after hearing about his great outcome, he says, "I actually had a cousin who traveled from Missouri to Wichita for CyberKnife treatment for his prostate cancer."