Sunnybrook’s development of a novel radiation treatment meant Bastiaan Heemsbergen was able to quickly return to the joys of his daily life after being treated for prostate cancer that had spread to his pelvis.
“At first, there was tremendous fear, confusion and anger. But mostly fear that suddenly the word ‘cancer’ had appeared in my vocabulary,” says Bastiaan.“I had a feeling that my life was not going to be as long as I thought it was, and that I might not have all that much time left with the wife and son I so deeply love.”
Sunnybrook’s prostate cancer experts helped calm that fear by moving quickly, surgically removing Bastiaan’s prostate gland and then treating him with radiation.
Bastiaan returned to his daily life, hopeful that his experience with prostate cancer was over. And it was, for six years, until his PSA level began to rise, prompting him to begin hormone therapy, which blocks the male hormones that contribute to prostate cancer growth.
Two years later, a regular imaging scan revealed cancer had spread to a lymph node in Bastiaan’s pelvis.
The news was devastating. Bastiaan faced a choice: have his pelvic lymph nodes surgically removed or undergo a leading-edge radiation treatment, called stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT), that would target the lymph node with a powerful and precise dose of radiation.
The Odette Cancer Centre is one of just a few centres in Ontario with the expertise and equipment to offer SBRT and a global leader in advancing and expanding the use of SBRT.
Because of SBRT’s power and precision, Bastiaan could be treated in just five sessions, much less than the 30 sessions of conventional radiation he received following his surgery.
“I feel very honoured and blessed that SBRT was available to me,” Bastiaan says.
“It was such a relief because it was two weeks and a day and then it was done. And here I am: I’m driving my motorcycle, playing piano and spending time with the people I love.”
With Sunnybrook, “there’s a sense that it’s on a constant quest to do leading-edge research that will feed its ability to develop new treatments that are even more effective, and make a patient live longer and more comfortably,” Bastiaan says.
“I feel so much gratitude for what Sunnybrook and its people have done for me.”