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Prostate Cancer Doesn't Hold Life-Long Adventurer Back

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By William Fitzgerald, MD Anderson Staff Writer

Jon Thompson lives a remarkable life.  He's a West Point graduate, a former pilot in Vietnam and successful business owner. He's visited more than 42 countries on official U.S. government trips, met with curators in the Louvre, seen the wreckage of the Titanic on the ocean floor and is currently searching for Amelia Earhart's lost plane.

You could say he gives the Dos Equis ad-man a serious run for the "most interesting man in the world" title. For Thompson, it wasn't a lost bag or plane ticket that interrupted his life's journey. It was cancer.

When his PSA score jumped double digits, he was referred for a number of biopsies that came back positive for prostate cancer. A natural researcher and explorer, Thompson quickly began searching for available treatments. After speaking with a family friend, he learned about MD Anderson's Proton Therapy Center and decided it was for him.

Proton therapy is an advanced form of radiation that targets tumors directly while sparing healthy tissue. This precision greatly reduces recovery and treatment time, while making it possible to treat complicated tumors.

After receiving treatment five times a week for two months, Thompson finished on April 12 and is looking forward to resuming his adventures.

"I liken my cancer experience to the Titanic," Thompson said. "I hit the iceberg and the doctors at MD Anderson were my lifeboat."

Next spring or summer, Thompson will join a team of highly respected nautical and marine explorers, who believe they have narrowed the location of Amelia Earhart's lost plane down to a 400 square mile area in the South Pacific. After decades of independent research, the team concluded Earhart ran out of fuel and crashed close to her intended destination off Howland Island.

Besides the real possibility of solving the greatest mystery of the last century, the journey is also about not letting cancer take control. 

"I'm 72 years old, but I feel like I'm 45 or 50," Thompson said. "I wasn't going to let prostate cancer hold me back because I have so much to do."

When he's cruising through the deep blue waters, there's no doubt Thompson will have a legion of supporters and friends from MD Anderson watching closely. After all, they were his lifeboat, but he's the captain of the ship now.

Read more about Thompson's journeys here.



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