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Patient Stories

The Power of Proton Therapy

After Multiple Battles With Cancer, Lonnie Is Happy to Be Here

Published September 2021

A 160-mile round trip, followed by an eight-hour shift at work — that was Lonnie Rieker's routine for 44 straight days while undergoing his first proton therapy treatments in 2015.

Thanks to the dedicated regimen, Lonnie beat his prostate cancer. But another fight was on the horizon.

Word of Mouth

Prostate cancer was not Lonnie's first cancer diagnosis, and it would not be his last.

Lonnie was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2009 and beat the disease the following year after undergoing surgery and treatment. When he found out he had prostate cancer in 2015, he recalled that during his previous bout with cancer, a friend had advised him to look into proton therapy. Lonnie did just that, and his research brought him to Northwestern Medicine Proton Center. It wasn't long before he started proton therapy treatment. 

"Nothing was going to slow me down," Lonnie says. "I had and still have so much faith in the Proton Center." 

Yet Another Battle

In 2018, Lonnie's brain cancer from nearly a decade before had returned. Based on his experience with Northwestern Medicine in 2015, he decided to come back for collaborative treatment of his brain tumor. Once again, it took a multidisciplinary team to drive Lonnie's recovery.

After starting with chemotherapy, Lonnie then had surgery with Osaama H. Khan, MD, and Sarah K. Bandt, MD neurological surgeons at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital. 

Following surgery, Lonnie enrolled in occupational therapy at Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital, part of Northwestern Medicine. The team there worked with Lonnie to regain strength and dexterity on the left side of his body.

His final series of treatments was then completed at Northwestern Medicine Proton Center. Radiation Oncologist Vinai Gondi, MD, developed a proton therapy treatment plan to target any remaining parts of the brain tumor that surgery couldn't remove. 

"Lonnie is a fighter and a remarkable individual," says Dr. Gondi. "We appreciate the trust he had in our team to provide his oncologic care and reach his goals of surviving these tumors."

Making the Most of Today

"I was always scared of the word 'cancer,'" Lonnie says. "But now, if I can help anyone else who is going through it, that's how I like to give back."

Lonnie's occupational therapy lasted just under a month. Since his return to farming, he has figured out how to do things more slowly to accommodate his recovery and he is not afraid to ask for help when he needs it.
Now Lonnie is even back to doing pushups to keep himself in shape. He enjoys going to car shows and tractor pulls as well as spending time with his family.

"I'm here," he says. "And that's major compared to not being here."

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Vinai Gondi, MD
Vinai Gondi, MD
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