In 2015 Michael Saunders started suffering from a headache. He had pain over his left eye and soon his eyelid started to droop. He had an eye test and was told it could be a blood clot. He was admitted to hospital in August 2014 but doctors could not accurately diagnose the problem.
He had scans and was told it could be a tumour at the top of his spinal column. It was then revealed to be a skull-based tumour on top of his pituitary gland. He was referred to Dr Gillian Whitfield from The Christie.
11 weeks in USA
In February 2016 Michael, from Bolton, Greater Manchester, flew to the USA to have proton beam therapy in Jacksonville, Florida. He spent 11 weeks there and was accompanied by his youngest daughter Kerry.
He stayed in a hotel which was near to the airport and the University of Florida Health Proton Therapy Institute.
The first two weeks were taken up with preparation for his treatment. There was a tour of the facility and a specially fitted mask was made. The mask clips the head of the patient down while the proton beam machine moves around them.
The proton beam therapy treatment widower Michael, 71, underwent consisted of 41 sessions, each lasting around half an hour.
Former postman Michael said: “I didn’t feel too bad during my treatment. The hospital was great and the tour behind the scenes in the first week or so helps to explain everything that is going to happen to you. It’s a fantastic facility.
“I met other patients from Bolton and Stockport there and we had a little UK group. We’d chat while we were having our blood pressure taken each day and we went for meals together and so forth.
Easier in Manchester
“I would have preferred to have my treatment closer to home. I’m not a great traveller and I had to renew my passport in order to travel there. Also, the heat there was really too much for me.
“If the proton therapy had been in Manchester, so close to home, it would have made things a great deal easier for me and my daughters.”
Michael has joined a panel of former Christie patients, who have received proton beam therapy overseas. The group will share their experiences and ideas to help shape plans for the treatment and care offered at the new centre in Manchester.