Winning the Match

Organization: Service: Story Topics:
Pancreatic Cancer
Bob McIsaac

Bob's Victory Over Cancer

It’s been nearly five years since Bob McIsaac beat pancreatic cancer – and he’s enjoying every minute. During 60 years as a financial advisor, Bob has steered innumerable clients toward a successful and abundant retirement. But at age 84, he’s not yet ready to retire himself. “My son and I are 50-50 partners in the business now, and I still enjoy working. I also play tennis four or five times a week, and travel to the desert every chance that I get,” says Bob. Needless to say, Bob is making the most of these years – years that many doctors would not have expected him to have.

NEVER GIVING UP

In June 2010, Bob began having severe stomach pains. Following a CAT scan and biopsy, he was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer that had metastasized to his liver, giving him a mere 10 percent chance of survival.

“I’ll never forget that day. It all happened so quickly,” says Bob. “I later learned that pancreatic cancer often doesn’t have any early symptoms, so by the time I was having my pain, it was already too late. 

”His oncologist refused to give up, and immediately started Bob on a six-month course of chemotherapy. The chemotherapy nearly eliminated the cancer in his liver, but did little to reduce the large tumor in his pancreas. Because of its location and involvement of a major artery, the nine centimeter by three centimeter tumor was considered inoperable. 

In December 2011, Bob was referred to Ajmel Puthawala, M.D., medical director of radiation oncology at Orange Coast Medical Center, who wasted no time in preparing him for CyberKnife, an advanced and revolutionary treatment for patients in their fight against cancer. “CyberKnife is a painless, non-invasive alternative to traditional surgery,” says Dr. Puthawala. “It delivers beams of very high-dose radiation with remarkable precision – within the width of a hair. We can destroy the tumor without harming the healthy tissue around it.”

REDEFINING SURGERY

Orange Coast Medical Center was one of the first medical centers in Southern California to acquire the CyberKnife technology. Over the last five years, CyberKnife has proven effective in the treatment of highly complex tumors throughout various organs in the body, including the prostate, lungs, brain, spine, liver, pancreas and kidneys. 

“In some cases, the tumor completely disappears,” notes Dr. Puthawala. “In other cases, the tumor is controlled, meaning the mass remains, but the cancer is eliminated. Our success in controlling the tumor is in excess of 95 percent.”

As the patient lies comfortably on the treatment table, CyberKnife’s computer-controlled robotic arm delivers beams of radiation from various angles directly to the site of the tumor, continually monitoring and adjusting for any movement, even breathing. Treatment typically ranges from one to five sessions, with each session lasting between 30 and 90 minutes.

Bob recalls, “I had five CyberKnife treatments over five days. All I did was lay on my back for an hour and the robotic arm moved around me. I didn’t have to stay overnight at the hospital, and I had no pain or side effects. No anesthesia and no incisions. When I was finished, I drove myself to my tennis match. I couldn’t believe it.”

LIVING LIFE

The tumor in Bob’s pancreas was successfully controlled, but his battle wasn’t over. During the last four years, he has been successfully treated with CyberKnife for cancerous lesions in his liver, lung, lymph nodes and shoulder – none of which have slowed him down. He remains active on the tennis court, and attends as many Angels baseball games as his busy schedule will allow.

“I’m a cancer survivor. I’m taking advantage of every day that I’m on this earth,” says Bob. “You have to get to the right doctors and get the right treatment. At Orange Coast Medical Center, I had both. They’re the reason I’m here today.”

For more information about the CyberKnife procedure at Orange Coast Medical Center, please call (714) 378-7900 or visit memorialcare.org/cancer.

Ajmel A. Puthawala, MD
Featured physician:

Ajmel A. Puthawala, MD, FACR, FACRO, FASTRO

Medical Director of Radiation Oncology, MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center
Specialties:
  • Radiation Oncology, Radiation Oncology - Pediatric, Radiology & Imaging