John's Journal...

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

How TomoTherapy Works

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. Click to enlargeThe 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.

“We’ve got 5-years worth of follow-up data on the patients we’ve treated with TomoTherapy, and we’ve learned it’s an effective way to treat prostate cancer, usually with far-fewer side effects than other forms of radiation,” Dr. John Fiveash explained to my daughter and me. “Before each treatment, patients are given a CT scan, so that the radiation therapist can see the position of the prostate, which can move, see the areas that need to be radiated and line-up the machine, so that it radiates the prostate. Radiation is sent from several different directions and targeted specifically on the prostate. This way you have fewer side effects because you’re radiating smaller areas more precisely. Most of our patients can continue their daily work. I recommend you have 28 treatments, one treatment a day, 5 days a week. And, I expect you’ll be able to continue on with your daily work.”Click to enlarge

When I explained my schedule to Dr. Fiveash, and we saw that there was a 3-week gap between the SHOT Show and the 2010 Bassmaster Classic taking place, and then I didn’t have too-many commitments after the first of March, since most of my planned turkey hunting would take place toward the end of March – the end of April, my daughter said, “Dad could start the Monday after the SHOT Show ends. If he could get his treatments in the mornings, he still could work the Bassmaster Classic the third week in February. He’d be finished with his treatments before his planned turkey hunts.” Dr. Fiveash grinned and said, “That’ll work.” Click to enlarge

After 1-1/2-hours of intensive questioning by my daughter, I’m sure Dr. Fiveash thought he’d experienced an interrogation much like a suspect would experience who’d been caught by the police outside a bank with a bag of money, wearing a mask and carrying a pistol. However, when we left his office, my daughter observed, “Dr. Fiveash knows his stuff, Dad. He’s on the cutting edge of cancer research and treatment. I can’t believe we’ve found someone like him here in Birmingham. I definitely think you ought to do TomoTherapy with him. This type of treatment should let you do everything you want to do. It shouldn’t make you sick, you shouldn’t hurt, and it should kill the cancer cells in your prostate. And, Dr. Fiveash has the research to prove it.” After my daughter talked to her husband (the doctor), and my son and my wife talked with her and her husband, my family agreed that this is the treatment I should use for my prostate cancer. My next big concern was, “What are they going to do to me?”

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:   What Having TomoTherapy Was Like  

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 4