Thursday, November 13, 2008


The cancer cells got a big surprise today: a shot of radiation right into their midst. It's all downhill for them from here.

Yes, the Proton Beam Therapy has finally started. Today was Day 1 of 45 treatments, each one a shot of proton beam radiation through the hip and into the prostate.

Do you think Odel was happy to get started? He is wearing his new name badge (entitles you to valet parking at the hospital), with a green sticker to indicate he has had fewer than 12 treatments.

The cup holds the last eight ounces of water he needs to consume before the radiation tech comes to get him; thirty-two ounces (or more) is the prescribed dosage to fill the bladder to help move it out of range of the radiation. Seems like all the guys in the lounge area are either drinking water (pre-treatment) or moving quickly to the bathroom (post-treatment).

LLUMC has four areas for the treatments: three "gantries" and one Horizontal Beam Line (HBL). One of the gantries is being rebuilt, so that eliminates 25% of their treatment capacity. The HBL and 2 operating gantries are in service from 5 am until 11 pm on weekdays, meaning Odel could have an appointment during a time he normally would be asleep. Fortunately, today's appointment was at 1 pm.

Odel is assigned to the HBL, which is the oldest of the 3 in-service machines. In this photo, Odel is in his "pod" in its low position, which allows him to get in and out without a ladder. :) The somewhat bright square in front of the radiation tech's head is where the protons shoot through - Odel's hip needs to be up there.

In this picture, the pod (and Odel) has been raised to the level of the beam and the techs (they work in teams of three and four) were making final adjustments. I left the room after this photo... Odel said they "called for the beam" (all three machines share the same proton beam, which I picture as whirring around a concrete room in the basement), left the room, and Odel got zapped. That part takes no time at all.

I get the biggest kick out of the pod, which you can see pretty well in this picture. All of this machinery is so high-tech, as is the idea of precisely zapping cancer cells with proton radiation... but the pod looks like something a not-very-handy "do it yourself-er" would dream up (as a single-use canoe, for instance).

It is a piece of wide-diameter PVC pipe, cut in half lengthwise. The pod fitting (filling the PVC pipe with a fast-setting foam around the body of the patient) takes place well in advance of treatment. Odel's pod is marked with his name (King Odel - I'm sure he loves that), and imobilizes him "just so", assuring that the protons are shot into his prostate rather than some other delicate anatomical area. Hanging out in the lounge awaiting treatment, you see pods being wheeled to and fro in pairs on dollies.

Now that treatments are underway, Odel will have one every weekday. As a new guy, he doesn't get to pick his time (luckily, his appointment tomorrow is also at 1 pm), but the techs told him to starting thinking about a 2-hour block that would suit him best for a permanent appointment. On we go!

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you are undergoing treatment! You are the best dad in the whole world and I do not know what I would do without you :).
    Love you lots!!!