March 23, 2021
Today marked the half way mark on my proton radiation treatments for the cancer in my prostrate gland. The entire course is 39, and today we completed #20. If the machine remains operable (not at all a certainty) I will be done on April 15th.
About the machine; she is big and complicated. In addition to the cyclotron that generates the protons used to kill the cancer cells there is a second apparatus. It consists of a remotely controlled positioning bed on which you lie, and the technicians position you on it with the aid of 3 blue laser beams. Then the CT scanning machine rotates around the bed and takes real-time images. These are super-imposed over a more detailed MRI image that was taken prior to beginning treatment. Helping the scanner to recognize what it is looking at are 3 tiny solid gold pellets inserted into the gland, also pre-treatment. A computer then calculates the exact position of the gland, in case it has shifted position since the last treatment. Once that data is fed in the bed places you in the correct place. As you lie there being as still as you possibly can, the scanning pencil-thin beam is directed to the right spots, thru your hips, a location chosen so as to minimize peripheral damage. After less than a minute of exposure time the bed rotates and the beam is directed in from the other side. Each full treatment lasts about 10 minutes, and I have been in and out of the clinic in as little as 45 minutes.
Not so yesterday. It was over 2 hours, as the equipment has had some hiccups lately. About 10 days ago the clinic shut down for a few days while the engineers tweaked the cyclotron. A few days after that they cancelled treatments for 2 days while they dealt with a cooling problem. Yesterday, the bed/Scan mechanism decided to have a bad day, and several of us ended up lying on the table for a long time while she decided whether she really wanted to work or not.
So today when I showed up and was told it was my turn I asked the medical technicians if the bed/scanner mechanism had a name. When they responded no, I suggested she might work better if she did and threw out a few. Carl, or maybe Betty I said is a good one, and they agreed. During my treatment she hesitated once or twice during the repositioning phase and Lorie the nurse in the control room shouted “Go, Betty, Go!” And she did, so “Betty” it is.
If you wish to deep dive the topic, this is the full story: