Calling a proton

It’s happening. I head to Seattle in a few hours. I have a consultation on Monday morning with Dr. Yolanda Tseng, a Radiation Oncologist at the ProCure Proton Therapy Center. The center is part of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, the largest cancer treatment center in the Pacific Northwest, and has opened recently, making it one of about 15 in the US. There are none in Canada, which is unfortunate, but Seattle is a heck of a lot closer (about a six hour drive) than either Loma Linda (San Francisco) or Boston, which were the two options we had at the start of this. I think I will be the first patient that our region has sent to ProCure Seattle, so I am very interested in checking it out. There is an information page and promotional video at I have not met Dr. Tseng yet, but from her online profile she appears to be extremely knowledgeable about proton beam therapy (pbt) and I am intrigued by her research into the effects of how patient progress is estimated. It appears that she has a patient-centric approach to care, which is awesome. I am hoping that she will be another in the long line of truly outstanding health care professionals that I have worked with.

During my consultation with Dr. Tseng, I expect (hope?) that we will determine a start date and the length of time that I will be in for pbt. I know that we will determine the care plan based on science, but I have somehow drawn red circles around Christmas and January 1, 2015, as end dates and I will really need to reflect if the treatments are going to extend beyond those dates. Given Dr. Tseng’s research areas I am interested in how she is going to estimate my progress. After my consultation with her I will have two CT scans, one with a barium ‘dye”. These will allow them to build the body cast and beam apertures.

All in all, I should be in and out in about four hours. Then home, some waiting and back, hopefully by October 27th to start daily radiation. Let’s get this done!!!

Why pbt? This is the cutting edge of radiation therapy. The beam is incredibly accurate (as it is shooting single protons) so it shouldn’t radiate anything on the way in or out and only radiate these #@%^ chordoma cells. Because the tumor was on my spine, right against my spinal cord, traditional radiation is out (as it could potentially radiate my nerves, etc.). In some ways I am incredibly lucky (You have cancer? A very rare cancer? That’s awesome – you are so lucky!) to require this therapy as the potential side effects are reduced. In time and with enough funding I think all radiation will be done this way. The major barrier, of course, is that the darn cyclotrons cost north of a hundred million bucks. Hence a private company like ProCure.

It is Thanksgiving weekend, and I am so thankful that I have access to this incredible new technology at the newest centre, so thankful that there are doctors like Yolanda Tseng who will care for me, so thankful that the BC health care plan is paying for the radiation component of this (otherwise we would have to sell our house and be living out of a paper bag on a street in Seattle), and I am so VERY thankful that Olivia and Stella (my wife and younger daughter) are coming with me to see the center, meet the staff and explore Seattle. We are going to try to make it a one day “staycation” rather than a 12 hour drive on a long weekend for diagnostics and an oncologist appointment.

Happy Thanksgiving! Go Seahawks and come on protons!

5 thoughts on “Calling a proton

  1. Great blog, Paul, and you are a brave soul in many ways, sharing your cancer journey. Like someone else said, your positive attitude will take you far! I just completed the Blogging 101 and learned a lot and made over 100 new friends/bloggers. I, too, feel a little stressed in these assignments. I work full time and teach two university classes at night so I have to pick the blog battles, Keep up the good fight and the faith and I look forward to reading more about your LIFE journey 🙂


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