How Stereotactic Radiosurgery Saved My Life

I had the recent opportunity to share my story in my local home paper, The Cape Cod Times! This is so special to me and I am excited to share with all of you.

Eight years ago, at the age of 18, I reached my goal as a professional BMX athlete. I had won my first pro contest, I had ridden in the X-games for the first time, I was approaching my third year as a professional on the Dew Tour, and I felt as though I was on top of the world. And then my world turned upside down.

I hit my head while riding one day and had to get an MRI, which revealed a benign, meningioma brain tumor that had invaded the left side of my brain. It was growing into my brain from a layer of my skull called the meninges and it was pushing down on my optic nerve. As it turns out, the tumor was the cause of the debilitating headaches – which my doctors and I thought were migraines – that I had been suffering from for some time. In the spring of 2010, I had to have my skull cut open to remove it. The six-hour surgery was successful, and five weeks later I was well enough to get back on my bike. And for almost two years, my life was back to normal.

In the fall of 2012, though, I faced a setback. An MRI showed two tumors the size of blueberries growing back. Because they were located in a very dangerous spot close to my main artery, surgery would have been too risky. I knew there had to be an alternative, and after the harsh reality of what I was facing set in, I made it my new goal to find another way. Through research and close consultations with my surgeon, I learned about a form of radiotherapy called stereotactic radiosurgery.

This cutting-edge technology – the concept for which was developed nearly 50 years ago and which has treated more than one million patients afflicted with brain tumors, vascular malformations and functional disorders – has a high success rate for tumors like mine. In this approach, beams of radiation are focused precisely on small targets in the brain, which means that the beams converge on the diseased tissue or tumor without harming healthy tissue around it.

I decided to go for it. In my case, the treatment, which was silent and practically painless, involved a machine that looks similar to an MRI machine and involved three sessions at 15 minutes, 10 minutes and 15 minutes. No time in the hospital, no side effects of note, I was back on my bike in a week, and I felt like nothing ever happened. A follow-up MRI scan in November 2013 showed a slight decrease in one of the tumors. The following year’s MRI showed even better news, with both tumors now decreasing. Subsequent MRIs have continued to show progress, and while I may never be tumor free, the treatment I received not only means I am alive, but that I can keep on living the life I want to live.

 If I had been diagnosed with this condition 20 years ago, I probably would not be alive today. Instead, I am living a physically, mentally and spiritually fulfilling life because of the innovative advances in medical technology.

Radiotherapy’s reach and effectiveness have grown by leaps and bounds, and it can now be delivered with previously unimaginable precision, reducing side effects while minimizing the time patients like me spend undergoing the procedure. As a result, radiotherapy is one of the most effective treatments for tumors of all types, both cancerous and noncancerous.

I am a true believer in the power of positive thinking, and I would say my journey is the epitome – literally and figuratively – of the theory of “mind over matter.”

Josh Perry, formerly of Dennis, lives in Cary, North Carolina.

-Josh P.