In December 2004, there was a death warrant out for Danny. The 55- year-old Houston native had a routine CT scan that revealed a tumor the size of a lime on his left lung. A biopsy showed that the tumor was malignant, a result of skin cancer that he had been diagnosed with almost four years before.
“They wanted to cut me from the middle of my back, all they way around to the front and remove the bottom part of my left lung,” said Danny. “Now that I was at Stage IV with melanoma, I figured once they started cutting on me that would be the end. Most of the people I knew who were that far advanced had died.”
Danny didn’t have the patience or the time to be sidelined by major surgery. He was president of a small oil and gas company that operates wells in South Texas and Alaska. He participated in competitive shotgun shooting and tennis, a sport he played professionally for a year in his early 20s.
That’s when his friend Pat Scranton stepped in. Pat, who was suffering from a rare form of cancer, told Danny that there were a number of treatment options that were not around when he was first diagnosed with melanoma and had a lymph node removed in 2001. One of those options was the CyberKnife® Robotic Radiosurgery System.
Danny sought a CyberKnife center in Houston, but there was none. The closest one was in Dallas at the Baylor Radiosurgery Center. There he met Dr. Brian Berger, a radiation oncologist, and became the first person in the United States to undergo the CyberKnife System’s lung tumor treatment protocol.
“Once I met Dr. Berger and he explained what the CyberKnife could do, I knew this was the treatment I wanted,” Danny said. “Being an experienced rifle shot, I know the importance of hitting the target. With regular surgery, it’s impossible for doctors to remove the entire tumor. But the CyberKnife is so accurate that it can get the legs and extensions of the tumor.”
In March 2005, Danny underwent three treatments with the CyberKnife System that each lasted about 90 minutes. During the treatment he wore a special vest with markers that helped his doctors target his tumor and hit it with radiation from 120 different angles.
Danny barely missed a day of work during his treatment. He was able to catch up on phone calls and e-mails each day, before and during his treatment sessions. And he was quickly able to resume his regular tennis matches.
“I had no reaction to anything. Nothing hurt. My hair didn’t fall out. I wasn’t sick and miserable,” said Danny. “Because it was a new technology, I was wondering if it was going to work. But I knew I could put my life in Dr. Berger’s hands. He can shoot that machine like Wyatt Earp can shoot a gun.”
Proof of the CyberKnife System’s accuracy and success in treating lung tumors was in Danny’s follow-up CT scans. After 30 days, his tumor had shrunk by 90 percent. And, in three months, the tumor was completely gone.
“After I found out I had the lung tumor, I said ‘I’m not dying. I refuse,’” he said. “You have to have an open mind and use every tool available to cure cancer. The CyberKnife was the neatest thing I ever saw. If I ever get another tumor, I’m not worried. I know exactly where to go to get it fixed.”
Danny is so impressed by the capabilities of the CyberKnife System that his goal is to establish a CyberKnife center in the Houston area. “The CyberKnife can save a lot of lives,” Danny added. “I made a deal with the Big Guy…if he’d keep me around awhile, I’d try to help save other lives. Every week I get calls from two or three people who have cancer, and I’ve always recommended that they check out the CyberKnife.”