With each cancer survivor’s story, we hear about tremendously caring teams of healthcare professionals who treat and support the patient, while family and friends provide additional care. But five-time cancer survivor Eugene Medina knows his incredible survival story comes as a result of something else—advanced technologies and experienced physicians breaking new ground in cancer treatment.
Medina has been treated for colon, kidney, bladder and lung cancer over 15 years, recovering each time with remarkable resilience. In 2008 when he was diagnosed with lung cancer the first time, he underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. But seven years later, Mills-Peninsula physicians found a new, nonsmall cell lung cancer during a PET scan.
This incidence was unrelated to Medina’s first lung cancer, yet the results of the scan allowed his doctor, radiation oncologist Al Taira, M.D., to see the urgency of the new tumor. This technology was made possible by generous donors from the community, just in the nick of time for Medina.
“Without new state-of-the-art treatment with the TruBeam STx linear accelerator, Mr. Medina would have had very limited treatment options,” Dr. Taira says. “His localized, but progressive cancer was very difficult to treat with traditional approaches.”
When Medina was treated for lung cancer the first time, this technology did not exist. “The timing was just right for him, as he was a poor surgical candidate and at this point in his medical history, a traditional six weeks of daily radiation treatments was felt to be too dangerous.”
Medina received 10 stereotactic treatments—precisely-targeted radiation—delivered in much higher doses than traditional radiation therapy while minimizing the damage to surrounding healthy tissue.
“I was very surprised to hear that a new machine was available to provide me with treatment, imagine my delight,” Medina says. “I had been told years ago that I would never be eligible for routine radiation therapy again because of all my previous treatments. I was very pleased.”
In October of 2014, Medina had his first follow up PET/CT scan. Prior to treatment, the tumor had a metabolic activity of four to five times normal, reflecting the aggressiveness of the cancer. His follow up scan revealed no abnormal metabolic activity at the site of the treated lesion, a very promising initial response.
Living it Up
Six months after successful treatments, Medina has replanted his lawn and resumed weekly golf outings with his friends. He walks his dog regularly and while Medina experienced a little fatigue during treatment, his energy level and zest for life has returned.
“My life was saved, and others like me will also be saved, because of donations from the community,” Medina says. “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that, and know that others who find themselves in my shoes will appreciate the generosity of our neighbors too.”
Medina is a long-time San Mateo County resident with five adult children and six grandchildren. They are surely happy to have him responding so positively, surviving multiple bouts with cancer while managing to live a very full life.