Cancer patient travels hundreds of miles to Michigan for proton therapy from doctor he trusts

Author: Leslie Toldo

When Apollo Molina got a prostate cancer diagnosis in 2001, he went to work, researching treatment options.

“I went for several opinions,” Apollo said. “Everyone was offering treatments they were choosing for me. I feel like it’s my body, and that it should be my choice.”

One option for men in early stages of prostate cancer is observation, or “watchful waiting”, according to the American Cancer Society. Eleven years passed before Apollo finally got treatment in 2012 at a facility where he lives, in Atlanta, Georgia. 

One thing that sold the Columbia, South America native on the radiation treatment option he had was the quick bond he formed with that cancer center’s first radiation oncologist, Dr. Christian Hyde.

“He is the greatest,” Apollo said. “I decided to go for him right away because he explained everything. He took me and showed me the machines. I felt like I knew him for years. I was very comfortable with him.”

Dr. Hyde said he felt that instant rapport with Apollo, as well, “We hit it off right away. Apollo had been to other places and felt like he hadn’t been treated like a human being. I’m glad I knew a little medical Spanish since he is a native speaker. “

After 39 treatments, Apollo was cancer free, and he ended up getting a job at the cancer center. Unfortunately, 11 years later, Apollo’s prostate specific antigen (PSA) level began to rise. The cancer returned in his lymph nodes.

By then, Dr. Hyde was working in Flint at the McLaren Proton Therapy Center, part of the Karmanos Cancer Network. Apollo tracked him down and gave his beloved doctor a call.

“Dr. Hyde came to the phone right away. I mentioned my name and he just came to the telephone and took time to talk to me,” Apollo recalled. “He sent me information about proton therapy, and I looked at it.”

Apollo was excited to learn that proton therapy was not only an accurate treatment, but it came with much lower risk for side effects than other forms of radiation.

“Traditional radiation travels through the tumor and keeps on going through the body, which can cause damage to healthy tissue and organs,” Dr. Hyde said. “With protons, we can deliver the needed dose of radiation, but targeted more directly at the tumor. After protons reach the tumor, they stop. Because protons do not exit out the other side of the body, there is less risk of damage to surrounding healthy tissue.”

Making the trek, hundreds of miles, from Georgia to Michigan was, Apollo, said, an easy decision, “When I found out Dr. Hyde specialized in proton, that’s what I wanted to do. I was very happy that I was going to see him because I did trust him. He told me, ‘I will take care of you.’”

The tricky part of getting treatment so far from home was finding an affordable place to stay. Apollo was delighted to discover the Hospitality House at McLaren Flint, which offered him low-cost accommodations during his treatments.

“I was very pleased with the facility. It was so easy for me. It was one thing that didn’t worry me,” Apollo said.

That was a great comfort to Apollo, who lost his wife in January 2023, not long after he learned his cancer had returned. He arrived in Flint in March, and by the middle of April, Apollo’s treatments were over.

“I was in and out of there with five treatments. I feel like I didn’t do anything at all. I had zero side effects,” Apollo said.

“I was glad that he called,” Dr. Hyde said. “It was good to see my old friend and coworker again, and I was glad to be able to offer him proton therapy. Because we had radiated his pelvis before, there is always a chance of causing additional damage when we re-irradiate the same area. It isn’t enough to just cure people anymore, we also need to ensure good quality of life, too.”

Now Apollo wants to share his story so that other men know proton therapy is an option that comes with much less risk of side effects.

“When I have the opportunity to talk with somebody, I will recommend the proton treatments,” Apollo said. “From 2001 until now I have been surviving. I looked at all my options until I found the right one. “

Learn more about proton therapy and the McLaren Proton Therapy Center at