John's Journal...

Outdoor Writer John E. Phillips Talks about His Prostate Cancer Journey and TomoTherapy

I Talked to Someone Who Had Had Prostate Cancer to Get His Take on the Disease

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: One in six men in the United States will have prostate cancer, and more than 65% of all prostate cancers are diagnosed in men over the age of 65. Through my 5-month odyssey, I’ve learned that prostate cancer doesn’t have to be a death sentence, and the treatment for it doesn’t have to hurt or have severe side effects. If your prostate cancer is discovered early, treatment doesn’t have to be a major discomfort or interfere with your life. However, all prostate cancer isn’t the same, and the same treatment isn’t recommended for everyone. The more you know about the diagnosis and the treatment of prostate cancer not only can save your life but also offset many of the fears and the concerns you’ll have after your initial diagnosis. This week’s postings will be very different from what I’ve posted in the past on However, those of you who faithfully read my webpage are a part of my Internet family, and I sincerely hope that what you learn from my experience may help you, your friends and/or your family members.Click to enlarge
Last summer I found out that a longtime, close friend of mine, Barry Smith, had prostate cancer. I was very worried and concerned about Barry, because you didn’t often find friends who will help you like Barry. I first met Barry when he worked for Alabama’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources as a fisheries biologist and then later headed-up that department at the State of Alabama. Over the years, I’d interviewed Barry for hundreds of articles on fish and fishing. Barry and another friend of mine, Don Keller, formed their own fish hatchery and research center, American Sportfish. Barry provided me with even-more information about prostate cancer. Through the research and experimentation that Barry and Don had done, they bred two new strains of largemouth bass. They called the super-aggressive northern strain the Tiger Bass, and the hybrid, a cross between the Tiger Bass and the Florida strain of black bass, the Gorilla Bass. The extremely-aggressive and fast-growing Gorilla Bass at 3- to 5-years old would weigh anywhere from 6- to 10-pounds each and continue to exhibit that aggressive feeding behavior, making these bass easy to catch on artificial lures. Barry had demonstrated to me his ability to research successfully.
When I found out that Barry had prostate cancer, I was really concerned, but glad to know that Barry was coming to Birmingham where I live, for treatments. Click to enlargeAnd, often after his treatments, he’d come by our house to visit. He told me about the radiation treatment he’d had called TomoTherapy, a revolutionary new type of radiation, that combined CT imaging and delivered  radiation treatments with speed and precision, increased accuracy and decreased side effects. To my amazement, Barry never was mentally or physically down. “John, I can’t believe how well my radiation has gone. I haven’t gotten sick, I haven’t had any problems, and the only effect I can tell from TomoTherapy is that instead of being able to play three sets of tennis a day, I only could play two sets toward the last couple of weeks of my treatment.” Of course, when I learned I had prostate cancer, I called Barry to find out what he thought about the type of radiation he’d had and ask him for suggestions about what he thought I could do. I knew Barry already had been through what I was facing and had come out a winner.”

Barry told me, “The first thing I recommend, John, is that you don’t panic. You’ve got time to do your research andClick to enlarge figure-out what type of treatment is best for you. From the time I was diagnosed, I spent 6 months researching the different types of treatment available for prostate cancer on the internet, and I talked to many different people who had had prostate cancer. Some of them had incontinence problems and diarrhea and were really sick after their treatments. Others had had little or no problems from their treatments. From the internet and the people I talked with, I found out about TomoTherapy. At the time, I was considering my treatment there were only three TomoTherapy machines in Alabama, and two of them were in Birmingham. So, I started researching who was the best doctor to deliver this type of treatment in Alabama and learnedabout Dr. John Fiveash of the Kirklin Clinic, a part of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s (UAB) Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of about 2-dozen comprehensive cancer centers in the country. Not only does Dr. Fiveash deliver this type of treatment, he has one of the longest records of follow-up care with the patients he’s treated. He also teaches other doctors how to do this TomoTherapy treatment. I really suggest you talk with him before you make a decision.”

For more information on Dr. John Fiveash, go to; to learn more about UAB’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, visit; for more information on TomoTherapy, check-out; to learn more about my urologist, Dr. Rodney Dennis, visit

Tomorrow: The Best Advice about Cancer Isn’t Always the Best Advice

Check back each day this week for more about "Cancer Not Me"

Day 1: I’ve Got Prostate Cancer
Day 2: I Talked to Someone Who Had Had Prostate Cancer to Get His Take on the Disease
Day 3: The Best Advice about Cancer Isn’t Always the Best Advice
Day 4: How TomoTherapy Works
Day 5: What Having TomoTherapy Was Like  


Entry 551, Day 2