Twenty-six year old Donald Hartung and his wife Jennifer, missionaries from Addis, La., said they were sharing the good news of Jesus in Cambodia when he started experiencing some discomfort. When the pain became too much last December, the couple returned to the United States to seek medical help and family support. It was then he was diagnosed with stage IIIC testicular cancer that had metastasized (spread) to his lungs, abdominal lymph nodes and brain. In spite of such an advanced diagnosis, Donald continued to work and minister throughout treatment. His life did not stop and restart, but rather he adjusted to the circumstances.
A Unique Solution Emerges
Due to the brain metastases, he started having debilitating headaches, vision changes with eye pain and was nauseous and dizzy. He underwent open brain surgery to remove the tumor, but it was unable to be fully and safely removed. Furthermore, on MRI scans done after surgery, it was clear his tumor was growing back in the surgical cavity and new tumors had also began growing in four additional areas of his brain, and his headaches and vision changes were again progressing.
Enter Dr. Daniel Bourgeois, a Gamma Knife Icon – credentialed radiation oncologist at the Cancer Center. He delivered Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS) with the Gamma Knife Icon, a highly accurate and non-invasive outpatient radiotherapy procedure that requires no cutting, stiches, anesthesia, etc. Donald only needed to lie still on a table for several hours.
He said he thanks God he only had to wear a custom mask to hold his head held in a steady position while the state-of-the-art machine treated the tumors while leaving his healthy brain tissue intact. In the past, it was required that a frame be surgically attached to the patient’s skull during the procedure. After the Gamma Knife Icon treatment, Donald returned to work that afternoon without any side effects. His headaches, dizziness and vision changes began subsiding over time.
The brain makes us who we are, so eliminating the tumor without harming healthy tissue didn’t impact any of Donald’s abilities, memory, cognition or personal characteristics. He says it was such a blessing to have such a quick and successful treatment.
A Life Continued…
Donald has now completed all of his recommended treatments, including chemotherapy, and all of his scans now appear clear with no evidence of disease, meaning no cancer in sight. He and his wife have since continued their ministry at their home church and are now looking forward to a future with children and embarking on their next mission adventure in the years to come.
Throughout the ordeal, Donald said he was never scared or nervous, but had a peace that surpassed all understanding. In fact, many were surprised by his lack of emotional response at the diagnoses. Donald says he knew his life’s calling had not been finished and thus it wasn’t the end.
He was told he had cancer, but cancer never had him.