My name is Ruth Peberdy, I live in Somerset, and was a nurse in the NHS for over thirty years.
In January 2004, my husband, Ron, was diagnosed with common pancreatic cancer. We went through a good deal of anguish and for several reasons, on which I will not dwell, he received no treatment as such until three months following his diagnosis, when he received ten weekly sessions of chemotherapy, Gemcytabin, which really does little in this type of cancer, just pays lip service really.
"I knew of the existence of Gamma Knife at the time of Ron’s diagnosis"
It is shocking that until the development of Cyberknife technology there has been little or nothing in the way of treatment for pancreatic cancer and those diagnosed with it have always been doomed from the start.
I knew of the existence of Gamma Knife at the time of Ron’s diagnosis, but was unaware that it treated just head and neck, and while talking to a friend who lives in Florida, whose brother had a brain tumour and was treated with Gamma Knife, I was told that “we have gone one better, now, we have Cyberknife.”
His son searched the internet and came up with the information that Cyberknife Miami was up and running.
"The only real side effect Ron experienced was fatigue..."
We contacted the Cyberknife Centre in Miami. Dr. Mark Perman dealt with us and we provided Ron’s investigations, scans, blood tests etc and I have to say, we were discouraged to hear that they thought that maybe the tumour was too big. However, Ron wanted to see his Florida friends because he knew it was likely that he would not see them again, so he used his executive Air Miles and off we went, armed with scans, xrays and other info having made an appointment at the Cyberknife Centre in Miami. Mark Perman and the staff at Cyberknife Miami were wonderful, they were upfront that ten days previously they treated their first pancreatic cancer, but they were willing to give Ron treatment, if he agreed. Obviously, we had to pay for this ourselves, we were told the cost, and the staff phoned around for the cheapest investigations they could get, Ron also had to have fiducials inserted. A week following that he drove himself to and from the CK Centre for his three sessions of treatment which lasted for about an hour each time, our friend’s house being about a mile and a half from the Cyberknife Miami Centre. The only real side effect Ron experienced was fatigue, which we expected. Other than that there was nothing.
"...when I first learned of what Cyberknife technology was capable of, I realised what a major step forward it was..."
We returned to the UK a day or two following the treatment. His energy levels increased, his appétite improved and we were able to take three short holidays, in short, the qualiy of his life had greatly improved. He was even able to thrash his friend at golf.
Sadly, the cancer caught up with him. If we had been aware of Cyberknife when he was first diagnosed we would have gone for it then. Unfortunately, in the time lapse between being diagnosed and receiving Cyberknife , the cancer was weaving its ugly web of destruction. However, we are all guilty of “if onlys” and looking at things retrospectively, but I am convinced that if Ron had accessed Cyberknife from the very beginning, certainly he would have had longer time and with better quality. It may even have saved his life indefinitely, who knows? We all have to die at some time, but Ron was a larger than life person with a big personality and a huge zest for life, diagnosed with common pc at 57yrs old. He felt cheated, he had literally worked his socks off and was looking forward to retirement in which he was set to become a toastmaster.
"Brain and spinal tumours, where precision is essential, can now be treated non-invasively"
What I do know is, that when I first learned of what Cyberknife technology was capable of , I realised what a major step forward it was and what it would mean for countless people who are diagnosed with tumours which are not accessible and too risky and dangerous for invasive surgery. Brain and spinal tumours, where precision is essential, can now be treated non-invasively, with minimal risk of stroke, brain damage, blood loss, infection, all the things neurosurgeons dread for their patients. With the advent of this technology, so many people can be spared these awful things. When Ron and I were in Cyberknife Miami, a man waiting with us told us that he had been treated for trigeminal neuralgia and it had given him his life back. Numerous people suffer from this excruciatingly miserable condition and can now be helped without the use of long term drugs which have side effects.
Before Ron died, I told him I would do all I could to one day have a Cyberknife Centre in the South West and since February 2005, I have been working to raise money, and just as importantly, constantly making people aware that Cyberknife technology exists.I am passionate about this issue and tend to get verbal diarrhoea on the subject of Cyberknife. I tell people about it wherever I go in the world and hand out my charity leaflets.
"If I have played just one small part helping people to gain access to it then my life will have certainly been worthwhile"
Sadly, the Dept. of Health has been less than encouraging and even less enthusiastic regarding my efforts. In short, they do not want to know and to my requests for people diagnosed with inoperable tumours having the opportunity to be referred to a Cyberknife Centre for assessment with a view to treatment if viable, they have passed the buck to the PCTs. Sadly, we now have a situation similar to the drug postcode lottery because already, some PCTs have referred people to Cyberknife while others are refused. The last five years have been difficult, but at last, notice is being taken of how important this technology is, not just in the war on cancer, but many other unpleasant conditions which plague the lives of sufferers and carers.
I am proud to be able to say that Ron was the first person in this country to receive treatment with a Cyberknife system.
If I have played just one small part helping people to gain access to it then my life will have certainly been worthwhile.
Yes, the outlay for this technology is great but once that outlay has been made, treatment will be more cost effective and many will be spared the traumas of invasive surgery and all that goes with it, there will be a reduction in the need for hospital beds and there will be a reduction in the need for a great many drugs, so the costs of drugs will also be reduced. In the end, everyone, including the NHS, will reap the benefits of investing in Cyberknife technology.

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