Talking Hope: Full sail ahead: Meet prostate cancer survivor Jon Remy

Prostate cancer is usually readily treatable and has high survival rates, especially when it is caught and treated early.

When Jon Remy was diagnosed with prostate cancer, he was prepared to do whatever he needed to do for as long as it took. But after only two weeks of leading-edge radiation therapy at City of Hope Orange County Lennar Foundation Cancer Center, Jon rang the bell to celebrate successfully completing his treatment. In this episode, Jon shares his message for men on the importance of early detection and treatment. There are no universal guidelines for prostate cancer screening, so men should speak with their physician so they can make an individualized decision on getting screened. This is particularly important for men over age 45 and men in higher-risk groups, including Black men and men with a family history of prostate cancer.

When it comes to cancer, it's Hope First. Call 888-333-HOPE (4673).

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Darrin Godin: Hello everybody and welcome to Talking Hope. I'm Darrin Godin and I'm pleased to be speaking today with Jon Remy. Jon is a prostate cancer survivor and a grateful patient at City of Hope Orange County. When Jon was diagnosed with prostate cancer, he was prepared to do whatever he needed to do for as long as it took, but after only two weeks of leading edge radiation therapy at City of Hope Orange County Lennar Foundation Cancer Center, Jon rang the bell to celebrate successfully completing his treatment. Jon, welcome to the podcast and thank you so much for being in conversation with us today.

Jon Remy: Great. Thanks, Darrin. I appreciate it.

Darrin Godin: Well, first of all, congratulations on finishing your treatment. While it sounds like your treatment was fairly short, I'm sure there's more of a story to tell there. So first of all, how are you feeling today?

Jon Remy: Feeling great, no after effects or side effects at all. Yeah, it started out in March of 23 where I had a routine blood work and my primary said my PSA levels were elevated. So, she recommended me to Dr. Yoshida, who she had known previously at City of Hope. And I scheduled an appointment in April and I had a consultation with Dr. Yoshida, and he laid things out very well on what the next stages are going to be. And so in May, this was more of a fact finding diagnostic time of the process. So, in May I had a prostate and MRI, which showed some abnormalities in the prostate. So, from then in June, he scheduled me for a prostate, a PET scan, which is more in depth, which they inject radioactive material into you and then it will light up abnormal cells. So during that scan, it showed I had something strange in my prostate and also in my pelvic bone. So, that was alarming. So, what they scheduled then was a pelvic bone biopsy to see if that was cancerous.

So, that was a needle biopsy that was taken, and that turned out to be negative, which that was a big deal for me and for them too, they were very relieved. So, that was July. In August, since the was not cancerous, they decided, well, let's check the prostate. So, I went in for a needle biopsy of the prostate, and that came back positive in several areas of the prostate, and they gave me an intermediate cancerous diagnosis with a Gleason score of seven. So, seven is a lesser amount, six is anything under six or six, they don't treat it, they just watch it. They'll just watch it. But with a seven they can do from then you try and plan a treatment session or a path. And that's where I met with Dr. Yoshida again in September. So, from then he gave me all the options, surgery, radiation, passive watching it. But from then on, he said he passed the baton over to Dr. Lee in radiation because he thought, and I thought also that the radiation would be the better solution for me.

Darrin Godin: Got you. So, you saw Dr. Yoshida, you made the decision that surgery was not the way you would go, but that radiation treatment was the best course of action for you.

Jon Remy: Right.

Darrin Godin: So, you I understand were actually one of the first ones to receive care utilizing City of Hope's groundbreaking ethos radiation therapy system. Is that correct?

Jon Remy: That's right.

Darrin Godin: So, let me give a little background for the audience on what that is. So, City of Hope is the first in Orange County to launch an Ethos Adaptive Radiation Program, which leverages artificial intelligence and advanced imaging technology to personalize that therapy based on your anatomy or the patient's anatomy and their position in the time of treatment. And with that Ethos System, treatment can be much quicker and in fewer sessions. And so, that's probably why your treatment was only two weeks, is that correct?

Jon Remy: Right. A few machines that were available and the Ethos was the one that Dr. Lee said, "Well, let's do this. This one is ready to go, and you're a perfect candidate." And from what I've heard in the past from friends of mine and other folks I've talked to 10 years ago, 15 years ago, these treatments were not easy and they were lengthy 20 sessions say. And that's what I had in my mind, what this was going to be. So, I was pleasantly surprised when after five sessions of a half hour each, and that was consecutive sessions, and then I rang the bell after that.

Darrin Godin: Wow. Well, tell us, what was it like to ring the bell that day?

Jon Remy: Well, it was emotional. Yeah, it kind of still is. I lost my dad that week.

Darrin Godin: Oh, I'm sorry, Jon. So, you had a moment of celebration for yourself and then also a loss that you were dealing with the same time.

Jon Remy: Right, right.

Darrin Godin: We're sorry for your loss. For sure.

Jon Remy: Thank you.

Darrin Godin: We're so glad you're doing well now, and we're so thankful for you sharing your story. You mentioned the other technologies that City of Hope has, and I'll share that for the audience as well. We are very blessed here at City of Hope Orange County to have a suite of radiation oncology systems that are not available anywhere else in the US. So, we're very blessed to have those systems in place, but we're also blessed to have doctors like Dr. Percy Lee rather, who really know how to use those systems to the very best and the people who win the most in this as people like you, Jon, and our patients who get the very best treatment that they need. So Jon, thanks for sharing that. Can you tell us about how did cancer change your perspective on life?

Jon Remy: Well, I've never really had any health issues, so this was the big wake-up call for me as far as dealing with a cancer. My father had a couple different kinds of cancer, and I went through that with him. But this one gave me a little bit more of a outlook of diagnosing something and actually getting preventative and checkups more often. For the most part and pretty much this is known already, but men don't talk about it, prostate cancer for any whatever reason, that's not something they're going to talk about out in the golf course.

But it's important. I mean, getting screened, I would never have known. My primary doctor's wonderful. Dr. McCaskill, she's had me go see Dr. Yoshida with a higher PSA. And it's easy. It's just a blood test. It's easy to find out, and then you can watch it or seek treatment, but the best thing to do, you don't want to let it go like anything else, it's preventative and preemptive strikes are the way to go. And I feel lucky that I went down to the new facility in Orange County with City of Hope. They were wonderful, everyone, all the technicians during the procedure were great, organized from the parking lot through the process. It was just a great facility. It's almost like a concierge hotel the way they treat you. It was wonderful.

Darrin Godin: Well, that's so good to hear. We often hear that people come to City of Hope for the science and for the advanced treatments that are available, but we love to hear that people really are moved and impacted by how great our staff is. And I have to admit, we have the best staff around and they really do care for our patients and their families as well. So, glad to hear that that was your experience as well. Jon, we ask every person on the podcast to share with us what does hope mean to you? What does the concept of hope mean to you?

Jon Remy: I think it gives you some hope, the word just means it's hard for me to express. But I went through a lot through the year and it was 2023 wasn't my banner year, let's say that. But looking forward and the hope gives me kind of a future, a bright outlook. I know now something like this can be beaten and you can move forward. So, it's a big deal for me. I'm a single guy and I think I've just learned it at getting treatments and getting diagnosed and using the facilities and the expertise of places like City of Hope is the way to go.

Darrin Godin: Oh, thank you. Thank you for sharing that. We really appreciate that. What is your message now to people, like you said, a lot of men don't talk about this. This isn't the topic that they want to talk about on the golf course, but what is your message now to other men about prostate cancer or about getting screened or just taking care of yourself?

Jon Remy: I think mostly it's get your blood work done on a regular basis. Get the numbers, find out what your PSA is. I mean, you're not going to have symptoms, I had zero symptoms and you're not going to know, and you don't want it to spread to other parts of your body. That's when I thought it was it spread to my pelvic bone, which would've been in my bones and a much bigger deal. But if you catch it early like I did in the intermediate stage, then your prospect of survival and getting well is fantastic. And just one note on the Ethos machine.

I've heard bad stories about going into an MRI tunnel, all these kinds of things and claustrophobia, but the Ethos machine, your head is not in a tunnel. You're taking up this small tube and your head is exposed, you're out in the open, you don't need a mask, any kind of gear on your head. It's just very comfortable and it's like a no-brainer. The sessions, the active sessions were actually about 20 minutes for five times, and then that's all it took in my case. Because it directs radiation more finely tuned to the affected areas. So, they don't just give you a blast, but they focus in on the cancerous areas. It's just very, it is a very comfortable, I almost didn't feel that I deserved to ring the bell from all the stories I've heard of other people going through 20 sessions, but for me, it was five and I was done.

Darrin Godin: Wow. Well, that's certainly the difference that we're hoping that we're bringing to Orange County with our advanced equipment, advanced personnel, advanced staff, physicians who specialize in various types of cancer. You certainly deserve to ring the bell. You've been through the journey. You finished the journey. You're doing well. We're so glad you got to ring the bell, and we're just excited to know that you're doing so well, Jon. And we thank you for joining us on the podcast today. Is there any other message that you'd like to share with folks before we sign off for the day?

Jon Remy: I'd say just get tested and take care of your business. Don't wait.

Darrin Godin: There you go. Get tested and take care of your business. Jon, thank you so much for your time today. We really appreciate it. And we thank you for all of you for listening on today's podcast. If you're liking the content, be sure to like it, share it, subscribe, and we'll see you on the next episode. Thank you so much.

Jon Remy: Thank you, Darrin.

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