CyberKnife delivers second chance

Don Davidson

In July 2011, Don Davidson was feeling fine, but saw his doctor in Kingston about the lump on his neck. The results stunned him.

Davidson was diagnosed with stage IV melanoma that had metastasized to his brain. He hadn’t shown any symptoms of a serious illness, yet he received a shockingly grim prognosis. Doctors gave him three to five months to live.

Davidson underwent whole-brain radiotherapy (WBRT) to destroy three tumours. The procedure was unpleasant, and the side effects were horrendous: drastic weight loss, nausea, dizziness, extreme fatigue, and lack of strength and mobility. His September follow up appointment revealed three additional brain tumours, but was told that WBRT was a one-time only treatment. There was nothing the doctors could do. He was told to get his affairs in order.

By chance that November, Davidson learned of a new treatment option: the CyberKnife.  This robotic arm delivers high doses of radiation to disintegrate tumours in inoperable places, such as the brain. CyberKnife radiosurgery is so precise that it destroys the tumour without harming healthy tissues surrounding it. The CyberKnife, entirely purchased by donors, was available at only two hospitals in Ontario; one was The Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre.

“I got a referral from my physician for a CyberKnife treatment the next day, and came up to Ottawa,” said Davidson.  

The painless procedure took approximately 45 minutes. Afterwards, he walked out of the room and went home, without experiencing any side effects whatsoever.

Follow up imaging showed that the tumours were gone. As his neurologist said, “his head is empty” (no tumours). And no cancer had spread to his body.

However, this past May, an MRI revealed that Davidson had a melanoma spot on his brain, and received another short CyberKnife treatment.  Nothing appeared on a subsequent MRI, though. The CyberKnife had done its job again. 

Four years after his initial diagnosis, Davidson is feeling great and has returned to his usual activities: boating, golfing and wintering in Florida.

“I wake up every morning happy to be alive,” said Davidson.

The CyberKnife gave him back his life.