Kenny Downs and his longtime family physician, and fellow mountain climber, Dr. Fred Leitz were catching up during a routine annual physical when Dr. Leitz shared that Kenny’s lab work revealed elevated prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels. Dr. Leitz suggested they should monitor the situation more closely; however, he would be retiring from practice at the end of that month.
During his search for a new primary physician, Kenny found Dr. Linda Petter at the Covington Medical Clinic, who recommended that Kenny see a urologist at UW Medicine at Valley Medical Center. He agreed to more testing, and his biopsy report ultimately revealed that 50 percent of the samples from his prostate were cancerous. He had experienced no physical symptoms whatsoever.
As an avid mountain climber, hiker, and bicyclist with two kids and a grandchild, Kenny felt a rush of emotions and questions running through his head: How would his family react? Could he still be active? How would he beat this?
A comprehensive search for answers
Kenny, a Boeing technician who lives in Lake Tapps, WA, and his wife, Lainey, a retired Boeing engineer, dove into cancer treatment research with the diligence they would a technical challenge at work. They spoke with Kenny’s doctor, providers at UW Medicine, Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center, naturopaths, and friends—and even traveled as far as Arizona for a consultation—in search of anyone who had experience with prostate cancer who could help guide their decision-making process.
The choices and information were almost overwhelming, but Kenny and Lainey developed a system. They weighed the side effects, cure rates, and average duration of each treatment option available to make the best decision for Kenny’s lifestyle and take charge of his cancer treatment as quickly as possible.
These factors led him to SCCA Proton Therapy Center. Kenny had three main reasons for going with proton therapy: fewer side effects with less surrounding tissue damage, no prolonged illness, and no delay. Being able to exercise regularly and spend time outdoors were important to Kenny, for both his mental and physical well-being. He was worried that surgery could lead to urinary incontinence and would limit his enjoyment of cycling and overnight climbing trips. And most importantly, like most cancer patients, he wanted to take action right away to begin his treatment and keep moving forward.
Getting on with treatment—and life
Once he made his decision, Kenny started receiving treatment at SCCA Proton Therapy Center within three weeks. He visited daily at noon, to beat commuter traffic, and then stopped at Dick’s Drive-In on his way home for a burger, fries, and a shake (his doctors didn’t have much concern with this small indulgence). Then, he would take his bicycle out for a couple of hours to clear his head and stay in shape.
Two months later, Kenny completed his treatment. He celebrated life by cycling 3,100 miles from Oceanside, CA, to Annapolis, MD, following the Race Across America Route. He rode solo while Lainey drove their truck with a camping trailer in tow. Lainey and their two dogs, Rosie and Cheuy, took the long journey alongside Kenny, cheering him on and meeting him at the end of each day to rest before continuing on the next leg. He completed the entire journey in just 30 days.
Now almost three years since finishing treatment, Kenny has no plans to slow down or take it easy. Thanks to his deep research, analytic approach, and quick action, he is happy with his treatment choice and feels empowered to continue doing the things he loves.