By John Maffei
Learning he had prostate cancer was a shock for Steve Scott, who already had survived testicular cancer and a pulmonary embolism.
Scott didn’t pull any punches. “I thought I was done,” the Cal State San Marcos cross country coach said of his first thought when told him he had prostate cancer. “Twenty years ago I beat testicular cancer. Then I beat a pulmonary embolism. “Now this. I had no symptoms. I was in shock.”
Scott’s cancerous tumor was resting on a nerve bundle, so surgery would have been terribly invasive. Traditional radiation treatment would attack good and bad cells.
“I was shocked and depressed about the options,” said Scott, 58, the former Olympian who was the American record holder in the mile with a 3:47.69 and run 136 sub-4 miles in his career.
Then on a family trip to Wisconsin, proton therapy was suggested. After a lot of soul searching, Scott made the call to the Scripps Proton Therapy Center. There he hooked up with Dr. Carl Rossi, who was a collegiate runner and serves as a volunteer cross country coach at his alma mater, Claremont McKenna College.
“The advantages is this spares healthy tissue,” Dr. Rossi said. “It doesn’t beat up a patient like X-ray therapy.
“Steve was a perfect candidate for treatment because he has a long life expectancy. “And, yes, it absolutely helps that Steve is an athlete. “As a runner, he was my hero growing up.”
Scott is six weeks into an eight-week program. He plans to address his situation and treatment at Saturday’s Cougar Challenge, Cal State San Marcos’ annual home cross country meet. “It was a huge shock when he told us what he was going through,” said Kate Bouvatte, Cal State San Marcos’ top women’s runner. “He’s always there for us, always so strong. “We complain to him about our aches and pains. He runs hills with us. He runs repeats with us. “He doesn’t act like he has cancer.”
Easton Tackett, the Cougars top men’s runner, describes Scott as a “father figure, not a coach.” “Now we need to take the time to be there for him,” Tackett said. Time is something Scott has to manage. He has treatment at 2:30 p.m. five days a week. That requires leaving campus earlier than he’d like. “The drawback is I have to arrive with my bladder full,” Scott said. “Then they run a balloon up my rectum to get the bladder out of the way. “That’s the worst of it.
The treatment is a pencil beam and it paints just the point being treated.
“The best thing is that I have no fatigue, no hair loss, no diarrhea. “Really, I don’t feel like I have cancer. That’s why I want to get the word out. “I want men to realize they need to get treated, need to see a doctor on a regular basis.”
Scripps Proton Therapy Center is one of just 15 such centers in the country. Dr. Rossi has treated more that more than 9,000 prostate cancer patients.
“Steve Scott is very gracious with his time, a true gentleman,” Dr. Rossi said. “He has the great drive a motivation of an athlete. “The man is an extremely rare bird.”