Lenny Knotoff’s love for fishing began when he was a young boy. His father taught him how to cast a line when he was 8 years old and he hasn’t stopped since. For 60 years, he worked as a commercial fisherman off Long Island. Now retired and in his 70s, Lenny never misses an opportunity to go out on the boat. “My motto is you just gotta keep moving and using your brain,” he says.
Fishing takes hard work and dedication—values that guided Lenny throughout his life, especially during the time he served in Germany as a sergeant in the Army. So, when he found out he had prostate cancer, those same instincts kicked in. He was determined to overcome this challenge and find the best treatment out there.
“I’ll never forget the day I was diagnosed,” Lenny recalls. “I was going for presurgical testing for knee replacement surgery at the Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital in Northport. My blood work showed high levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), a red flag for prostate cancer.” After discovering a lump in his prostate, Lenny had it biopsied and the diagnosis was indeed prostate cancer. Luckily, he caught it early enough and it hadn’t spread to any other organs.
When his doctors sat him down to discuss possible treatments, they recommended a few different options, one of which was surgical removal of the cancer coupled with medications to treat it. Lenny wanted to attack the tumor aggressively, but he also wanted to avoid surgery and any related side effects. The option that stood out to him the most was CyberKnife—a powerful, but noninvasive form of radiation therapy with barely any side effects. So Lenny went home, did some research and decided that CyberKnife was right for him.
“With CyberKnife, there’s no anesthesia, no hospital stay and no pain,” says Lenny. “That can be a big plus for veterans. Especially those who have put a lot of demands on their bodies already, and who may be older or have other conditions that make surgery difficult.”
Finding a treatment center was Lenny’s next step. The nearest VA hospital that offered radiation therapy was far from where he lived, so he explored other options. He learned about the Veterans Choice Program, which makes it easy for vets like Lenny to access the most innovative treatments close to home. His VA doctor quickly referred him to radiation oncologist Dr. Richard Byrnes at CyberKnife of Long Island, a Northwell Health treatment center that participates in the program. “I was approved by the time I got to the parking lot.”
An hour a day for five days—that’s how long Lenny’s entire treatment took. “It was so simple and easy, and you don’t feel a thing,” he explains. “The staff would put on whatever music I wanted—they were incredible—and sometimes I dozed off right on the table.”