It’s hard to determine what Ray Rodeno is more passionate about— his wife Elizabeth (Bette), his children and grandchildren, his Catholic faith, his wine business, his professional career, his travels, or his volunteer work throughout Southern California.
When Ray’s physician told him he had prostate cancer, he reacted with the same courage and passion in which he addresses everything in life. “I took out a personal campaign to learn more,” Ray says.
The cancer diagnosis did not scare Ray. It only inspired him. “I read through every way to treat it,” Ray says. Physicians told him he was not a candidate for surgery because of his age. He aggressively researched the best cancer centers and treatment options in the area.
When he came across a MemorialCare newspaper ad for intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), Ray decided to investigate. He met with Steven Damore, M.D., a MemorialCare radiation oncologist, who suggested Ray receive IMRT at the Meiklejohn Radiation Oncology Center at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills. The center had recently received a generous donation from Laguna Woods residents Bill and Louise Meiklejohn to purchase and install a new linear accelerator. IMRT with the linear accelerator is a sophisticated, new technology that can shape and deliver a lethal dose of radiation to a tumor while sparing surrounding healthy tissue. The difference between conventional radiation therapy and IMRT is beam intensity. Instead of the patient being treated with a single, large uniform beam, the patient is treated with several small beams, each with different intensities.
Ray was one of the first patients at the Meiklejohn Radiation Oncology Center to receive IMRT with the new linear accelerator.
Dr. Damore also used an ultrasound guidance system and integrated software to carefully pinpoint the tumor’s location before each treatment.
“Our new technology is much better than it was 10 years ago, and it allows a much higher degree of precision and accuracy,” Dr. Damore says. “The technology also allows patients like Ray to better tolerate the treatment than in the past and with fewer side effects, even though he received a higher dose than is customary.”
During the course of Ray’s IMRT, which included 42 one-hour treatments over 59 days, Ray says he just prayed for strength. “I didn’t lose my energy. Physically, I felt fine,” recalls Ray.
“I just cannot say enough about Dr. Damore,” he adds. “Right away, he instilled so much confidence. I have a lot of respect for his abilities. And I have never met a better group of health care professionals than at the Meiklejohn Radiation Oncology Center. They are true champions.”
During treatment, Ray continued with his active life. “I love to keep busy and I love social interaction,” says Ray, who first joined Allstate Insurance as a trial lawyer, and then over the next 35 years rose to vice president, corporate attorney and later chairman of the board for Allstate Savings Bank. He retired at the age of 56 only to rejoin the workforce shortly thereafter as board chairman and CEO of Ticor Mortgage Insurance Company, a position he held until 1986.
Married for more than 60 years, Ray and Bette now live in their two-story “beach house” in Corona del Mar, where they both swiftly climb the stairs several times a day and enjoy watching the busy beach community. They spend as much time as possible with their four children and eight grandchildren, as well as help run their boutique winery called Trinitas, which specializes in exceptional California Heritage wines.
According to Dr. Damore, prostate cancer grows very slowly and responds to treatment slowly. “We’re hopeful Ray responds well to his treatment,” Dr. Damore says.
As for Ray, he says he’s back to normal and continues to pray each day for cancer victims everywhere to have a quick cure and to return to their normal lives.