Going After a Specialized Radiation Treatment

April 17, 2023
Going After a Specialized Radiation Treatment


I rode my bike 20 miles a day until I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

I’ve been active my entire life and I never imagined this could happen to me. Then, on April 1, 2022, I had severe pain in my abdomen. I rushed to the emergency room at Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara Medical Center, Santa Clara, California, expecting to be diagnosed with appendicitis. The doctors ruled that out quickly but kept me there for observation and tests. About two weeks and a handful of tests later, the doctors suspected I had pancreatic cancer, a biopsy had to confirm it.

Unfortunately, they couldn’t perform the biopsy right away. I had been hospitalized for so long that my muscles were atrophying. I had no appetite, couldn’t eat, and had lost a lot of weight. The biopsy procedure would have been too much for my body. But ultimately, I was officially diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Treatment Journey

A New Approach for Me

Then the San Jose State University alumni magazine arrived at our house (my wife is an alumna). I was reading the magazine and the word “cancer” caught my attention. There was an article about a new ablative SMART radiotherapy technology from ViewRay. This was my “lightbulb” moment, and I was determined to discover more.

I live 10 minutes from the ViewRay office in Sunnyvale, California, so I decided to go there in person. My first attempt at the office was not what I had hoped for—it turned out that this was not the main office. But someone there offered to put me in touch with someone who could help me.

Within days I was connected with the ViewRay team, and they explained more about MRIdian treatment. The MRI allows the radiation oncologist to see the tumor and nearby healthy organs to design a personalized treatment plan and treat cancer more precisely than standard radiation methods. This lessens the negative side effects on the surrounding organs, making the radiation less toxic for the rest of my body. The more I understood the technology and talked with Steve, a member of the ViewRay team, the more I knew the treatment was right for me. I decided to find an oncologist who could offer MRI-guided radiation treatment to me.

Treatment Outcome

Getting this Treatment

The next step was finding an oncologist to treat me using this technology. I did some research and found Dr. Kenneth Chao, the Director of Radiation Oncology at BASS Cancer Center in Walnut Creek, California. He wasn’t the type of doctor that felt pressed for time. He was willing to explain the situation to me and answer all my questions.

From the time that I reached out to the clinic about MRIdian to the time I started treatment was about five working days. So we had a plan, and we went for it.

After the first procedure, I was in tears—happy tears! I felt like I had some control over my tumor and my treatment. In total, my MRIdian therapy was completed in less than three weeks and five visits.

Life Beyond Cancer

Feeling Optimistic

The treatment went well, and I had no adverse effects. Besides ridding my body of cancer, it gave me a lot of hope. I finished my MRIdian treatment in early 2023, and have been doing well.

I am lucky to have found the MRIdian treatment and for it to have worked on me. If there is one thing I have learned about pancreatic cancer, it is how challenging it is to treat.

Now I am absolutely feeling optimistic about my life going forward. My wife is, too. My next goal? To reach 20 miles again on my bike.

Written by Don Myrah, Let's Win Pancreatic Cancer

BASS Cancer Care Services

Depending on the type of cancer and how far it has spread, BASS Cancer Center and the BASS Medical Group offer a wide range of treatment options. These options include surgery, radiation therapy, and systemic therapies like immunotherapy, targeted therapy, and chemotherapy.   

Our state-of-the-art cancer center features a full-service medical oncology clinic, including infusion suite, multiple exam rooms, and a PET/CT scanner. We also provide the most technologically advanced radiation oncology treatment in California. Our cancer experts use an Elekta VersaHD CT-Guided linear accelerator with Visionrt’s AlignRT Surface Guided technology (SGRT) and an MR-Guided Linear Accelerator (ViewRay MRIdian).

The VersaHD and MRIdian augment each platform’s capabilities and give the patient and BASS physician an unprecedented ability to tailor a radiotherapy treatment course best fit for each person’s case. Our AlignRT SGRT platform utilizes innovative optical technology to accurately track a patient’s position before and during treatment. It performs this without exposing them to any additional radiation (commonly needed by other radiotherapy platforms for maintaining setup). Additionally, SGRT provides options. It allows some patients the choice to avoid permanent marks on their bodies.

The BASS Approach

BASS Cancer Center is part of the BASS Medical Group, with access to a multidisciplinary team of top surgeons, medical oncologists, and radiation oncologists, as well as care coordinators, wellness support, and patient education resources. Our vision centers on our belief that everyone deserves access to the most advanced cancer treatments without compromising on compassionate and individualized care. We pride ourselves in working together with you to develop the best possible management plan, all the while supporting you and your families along the way.