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Jerry's Story

jerry's story

Penn State professor’s research leads him to Geisinger

Diagnosed with prostate cancer, Jerry’s research provided him with an interesting perspective on his own treatment options. That research, in turn, led him to a new respect for Geisinger physicians.

Gerald G. “Jerry” Johnson, Ph.D., an accomplished Penn State professor and scientist, is comfortable sharing complicated information. For almost 50 years, he has presented lectures to groups as large as 500 people across the world, and he’s received national accolades for his work with X-rays and computer imaging. But like so many others who receive unexpected news about their health, he was dumbstruck by the words of his urologist.

“You have prostate cancer,” his doctor told him. 

Jerry’s mind raced. How could this happen to him? Are the tests right? Recalling two good friends and colleagues who had died of prostate cancer, he had difficulty grasping the news.

Jerry's Story: Prostate Cancer

Diagnosed with prostate cancer, Jerry's research provided him with an interesting perspective on his own treatment options. That research, in turn, led him to a new respect for Geisinger physicians.

“I thought the doctor had made a mistake,” Jerry recalls. “I’ve had PSA tests [to screen for prostate cancer] for years, all with good results, well within the normal range. I’m glad that my wife was there with me, because I didn’t hear much else he said that day.”

He did listen, however, as his family physician at Geisinger Scenery Park gave him an overview of his treatment options: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and possibly cryoablation, a procedure using extreme cold to burn off cancerous cells. Physicians had caught his cancer early, so Jerry also had the option delaying treatment until a later time.

Personal research, professional expertise

At home, Jerry, 69, began scouring medical journals and websites for detailed information. As an accomplished scientist for almost five decades, his profession gave him an interesting, though unexpected perspective on prostate cancer treatments. He works in a field that uses X-rays, high-tech computer programs, and cryogenics (freezing temperatures) to analyze crystals.

“I’ve used X-rays and cryo technologies in my work, so I was able to evaluate the research studies from the scientist’s perspective,” he says. “I spoke to many people and read many books about prostate cancer. I even found a textbook for physicians, the Handbook of Urologic Cryoablation.” 

Critics heralded the book as a must-read for urological surgeons who want to master urologic cryoablation, “a ground-breaking advance in the treatment of prostate cancer.” The more he researched the procedure, the more interested and hopeful he became that this would offer him a cure. But the procedure was relatively new, and not every hospital offers it. Jerry researched the editors, and found a new respect for Geisinger physicians.

“One of the editors was right here, right at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville,” he says, still impressed that an international expert practiced so close to his home.

Curative therapy, great results

In November 2008, Jerry went to Geisinger for cryoablation and went home the next day with the cancer destroyed.  Home-care nurses helped him with post-surgery care, and several exercises he’d begun before surgery (including Kegel exercises) helped him regain strength in the bladder muscles over the next several weeks. 

“After about six weeks, I started back on my regular exercises, including an hour of racquetball and strength training every day,” he says. “Not only was I free of cancer, I didn’t have any of the side effects I’d read about.”

Now more than a year after surgery for prostate cancer, Jerry has resumed his extraordinarily long road trips with his wife, Marge, to visit national parks across the U.S., including a recent trip to Disneyworld with his two grandchildren. He also returned to his consulting work to learn he had been awarded one of his field’s highest honors, the 2008 distinguished fellow award from the International Centre for Diffraction Data.

Getting the word out: early detection, advanced care

As honored as he was to receive that award, Jerry remains true to his role as instructor. He and a colleague who also had excellent results from this procedure contacted Geisinger to offer to share this story, to make sure more people find out about the advanced treatments for prostate cancer that Geisinger brings to patients right here in central Pennsylvania.

“My wife and I were impressed with the entire experience,” Jerry says. “I went from having difficulty saying, ‘I have cancer,’ to becoming an advocate for early screening and cryosurgery as one option to cure prostate cancer. It’s what saved my life. I’m thankful to Geisinger for their dedication to people like me.”