Richard Braun

Richard Braun was 58 when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. After researching his options for treatment, he chose proton therapy as the best treatment to fit his lifestyle and cure his disease.

Richard Braun
Richard Braun

Prostate cancer survivor

  • Had a family history of prostate cancer
  • Diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2012 at age 58
  • Determined to find treatment that enabled an active lifestyle
  • Selected proton therapy and was treated with virtually no side effects

Helping others communicate in a crisis is what Richard Braun is trained to do. An electronic communications technician, Richard provides the technical infrastructure needed for cleaning up oil spills. But when Richard was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2012, he turned to others for advice on his own health crisis.

“It all started in 2010 when my company started to offer men a free annual PSA [prostate-specific antigen] screening,” he said. “At the first screening, my PSA was at a 1.8, which wasn’t alarming. However, over the course of 24 months, we discovered that it jumped to 10.7 and that I would need to have a biopsy.”

Diagnosis: Prostate cancer

A few weeks after the biopsy, Richard’s doctor, a surgeon, confirmed that Richard had prostate cancer and should begin considering treatment options. The surgeon recommended robot-assisted surgery but also offered to arrange for a second opinion with another doctor so Richard could learn about conventional intensity-modulated radiation therapy and brachytherapy, which involves placing radioactive cancer-killing seeds in the prostate.

Since Richard’s cancer had not spread beyond his prostate, time was on his side. He used this to his advantage, researching all possible options and any side effects associated with the different treatment modalities.

“I told the doctor ‘I’ll get back to you’ and then left to do my own research,” he said. “Knowing I had time to investigate my options, I joined a prostate cancer support group and began talking to men about the treatment they had and any side effects they were experiencing.”

The right treatment for an active lifestyle

Being active and outdoors was an important aspect of Richard’s lifestyle. Also, he was concerned about the risk of incontinence as a side effect of treatment. “I knew there had to be a better solution out there that would work with my lifestyle, not against it,” he said.

After reaching out to a former coworker who had battled prostate cancer, Richard learned for the first time about proton therapy. He was inspired to research this form of treatment further and began reading about protons. Richard contacted more survivors and planned a trip to visit a proton therapy center.

“One of the articles I read during my research mentioned there was a center opening soon in Seattle, and for me that’s when I knew my decision was made. I chose proton therapy,” he said.

Proton therapy

SCCA Proton Therapy Center opened in the spring of 2013 on the campus of SCCA UWMC-Northwest, and Richard began his treatment there. Given the center’s location, convenient to his home, he was able to maintain a sense of normalcy during this outpatient treatment and continue to work five days a week. Richard experienced virtually no side effects during treatment. He even decided to surprise everyone at his last proton therapy session by riding his bike more than 20 miles to the treatment center from north Everett, where he lives.

“Life is a journey, and how we choose to live our lives will determine our future,” he said. “As I ended this part of my journey with cancer, I knew I was moving forward to bigger and better things.”

It’s your life, it’s your choice

Despite being a reserved person by nature, Richard is passionate about sharing his story with others. He believes that most men do not want to talk about the health challenges they face and too often just go along with whatever advice they receive first from their doctors.

“I truly believe that doctors are extremely smart and have the best of intentions, but it’s important to be an active participant in your own care,” he said. “Question what you’re being told, get a second opinion, and make sure you’re comfortable with the treatment plan being created. It’s your health, it’s your life, and it’s your choice.”

One of the things Richard appreciated most about the care he received at SCCA Proton Therapy was the sense of community and the opportunities to share created by the staff. From dinner meet-ups off of the hospital campus to afternoon chats in the lobby before his therapy sessions, Richard found immense value in talking to men going through the same treatment. It was comforting to him to know that he was not alone.

“I still find myself returning to the center from time to time to talk with others,” he said. “While my treatment has ended, the survivor community that I am now a part of is just beginning.”

Antigen A foreign substance, such as bacteria, that causes the body’s immune system to respond by making antibodies. Antibodies defend the body against antigens. Biopsy The removal of a sample of tissue or fluid that is examined to see whether cancer is present. This may be done with a large needle or through surgical removal of tissue or fluids. Radiation therapy The use of high-energy radiation from X-rays, gamma rays, neutrons, protons and other sources to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. The use of high-energy radiation from x-rays, gamma rays, neutrons, protons and other sources to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external-beam radiation therapy), or it may come from radioactive material placed in the body near cancer cells (internal radiation therapy or brachytherapy). Systemic radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance, such as a radiolabeled monoclonal antibody, that travels in the blood to tissues throughout the body. Screening Checking for disease when there are no symptoms. Because screening may find diseases at an early stage, there may be a better chance of curing the disease Checking for disease when there are no symptoms. Because screening may find diseases at an early stage, there may be a better chance of curing the disease. Examples of cancer screening tests are the mammogram (for breast cancer), colonoscopy (for colon cancer) and Pap and HPV tests (for cervical cancer). Screening can also include a genetic test to check for a person’s risk of developing an inherited disease. Side effects A problem that occurs when treatment affects healthy tissues or organs. Some side effects of cancer treatment are nausea, vomiting, fatigue, pain, decreased blood cell counts, hair loss and mouth sores. Side effects A problem that occurs when treatment affects healthy tissues or organs. Some side effects of cancer treatment are nausea, vomiting, fatigue, pain, decreased blood cell counts, hair loss and mouth sores. Treatment plan A detailed plan with information about a patient’s disease, the goal of treatment, the treatment options for the disease and the possible side effects and expected length of treatment. A detailed plan with information about a patient’s disease, the goal of treatment, the treatment options for the disease and the possible side effects and expected length of treatment. A treatment plan may also include information about how much the treatment is likely to cost and about regular follow-up care after treatment ends. Prostate-specific antigen A protein made by the prostate gland and found in the blood. Prostate-specific antigen blood levels may be higher than normal in men who have certain prostate diseases or conditions.

A protein made by the prostate gland and found in the blood. Prostate-specific antigen blood levels may be higher than normal in men who have prostate cancer, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or infection or inflammation of the prostate gland.