Monday, May 12, 2008

Three Months Later...

I've determined that I'm not very good at this blogging thing. I promised these pictures way back when my treatment was completed, but it took this long to get around to it. Here they are, at long last -- thanks for dropping by to take a look.

Before showing you the pictures, Let me give you an update on my PSA levels. Just prior to the start of proton therapy on December 5, my PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) was 4.4. On the last day of treatment my PSA was 3.3, a significant reduction. Three months after the end of treatment, on May 2, I again had blood drawn. My PSA is now at 0.2 and I couldn't be happier. You can find more information about PSA at

Back to the last day of treatment, February 1, 2008...

We gathered with friends after I had an early treatment (my 40th) for a celebratory dinner. From the left, Forrest, Paul, myself, and Paul (Gene didn't get in the picture). In late afternoon we left the party for my last treatment. Anita had determined to make some photos of the process, so she borrowed Linda's camera and brought it into the treatment room.

Yours truly posing with the "Yellow" gantry in which I received my last treatment. Of the three, the Yellow is devoted to prostate treatments, while the others ("Blue" and "Red") handle patients with a variety of conditions treatable by proton therapy. All of my treatments except this last were in the "Blue" gantry.

After I climb onto the bed, the saline solution is introduced and a preliminary alignment is done by laser LEDs using the targets marked on my hips. The bed will then be rotated 180 degrees and for the preliminary x-ray and treatment.

The device on the right is the x-ray machine. Prior to each treatment an x-ray is made and evaluated to be sure that the target (my cancerous prostate) is in the proper position to be zapped. The device on the left delivers the proton beam the the victim -- I mean, the subject -- on the platform. Notice the brass ring in the lower-left of the picture: this is a part of the focusing device used to ensure proper application of the treatment.

As we were leaving, Gary Barlow was interviewing a new radiation technician. We got a picture of them. Gary was very helpful, always doing what he could to make sure our treatment was on time and handled in good order. Gary has become a very good friend.

Kristi was my case worker. Kristi helped us get our records together, scheduled the various tests needed for evaluation, and organized our time at the center. Each week she would gather medical data for my appointment with Dr. Henderson.

After receiving my last treatment, we came back to Paul and Marilyn's house to show off my graduation certificate, and one of the proton beam diffusers that had been used for the two months.

Friday, February 01, 2008

We're Done!!

Up early this morning, off to the Proton Institute for my 40th treatment. Traffic wasn't bad, the radiation technicians were up to speed, and by shortly after 8:00 AM we were meeting with Gary Barlow, Administrator of Technical Services, for our Exit Interview. Next came a short meeting with Dr. Henderson which included getting scripts for blood work and an appointment for my six-month checkup in September. Back to the house where we spent some time getting our belongings together. Off to Quest Diagnostics for blood work, then we went to the home of Paul and Marilyn for a celebratory lunch with Paul and Patti, Gene and Linda, and Forrest and Glenda. About 4:30 we interupted the party to go back to the Institute for my 41st and last treatment. Spent a few minutes with Gerry Troy, then back to the gantry. With my treatment concluded, I was given a Certificate of Graduation signed by many of the technicians who had been working with me. Very nice, and I also got the diffuser that was part of my treatment regimen.

Anita also came with, and took some pix of my last treatment. I'll post them in the near future. Right now, we're gonna get ready to leave for Tennessee early in the morning. Thanks to all who have been praying for us; we feel very blessed in this entire process.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Dash for the Finish...

We're down to the wire! Today I had my 39th treatment (of 41), and tomorrow, Friday, I will have my 40th at 8:00 AM and then my last one at 9:20 PM. We've been gathering our belongings, getting ready to load the Jeep and head for home. It's been a long, draining time away and both Anita and I are ready to get back to Tennessee.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

5/6 completed

On Friday I had my 35th Proton treatment. I had been anticipating 42 treatments, which would have given the 5/6 fraction mentioned above. But on Tuesday, my oncologist said that 41 treatments will do the job. Six left and we'll be on our way back to Tennessee. We are certainly ready to get back home.

Worst part of this past week has been a bad cold I picked up on Wednesday. It still lingers, but I'm feeling a bit better today. I guess I'll have to blame it on "the bug going around" and not the therapy; lots of folks at church were affected, and even one of the staff at the Institute. I hope to be "out and about" tomorrow or the next day. Fortunately treatment is not affected; I do have to hold still and not sneeze, however.

I haven't described what the treatment is like, so let me do that. Tomorrow I'm scheduled for a 7:40 AM. We'll get up shortly after six and try to get on the road by 6:40. It takes about 20-25 minutes to drive to the Institute. I will check in, drink my water, then chat with other patients until I'm called to the back. Once there, I change into a hospital gown and proceed into the treatment gantry. I get onto the platform, the radiation technicians align my body using targets drawn on my hips, and I am placed into the correct position for the treatment. Before they "shoot me" with the Proton beam, X-rays are made to ensure that the target -- the cancer in my prostate -- is aligned properly. Two weeks before my treatment regimen started, three gold seeds were implanted in my prostate, for use with the x-rays in determining the exact spot where the proton beam needs to deliver its dose.

After all this alignment, the actual radiation is anti-climatic. The technicians go out to the control room, the beam is started, and a few minutes later they're back. Mission accomplished, I get my appointment time for the next treatment, get back into street clothes, and am on my way out the door. Total time: as little as 30 minutes, but it can take longer if there happen to be any equipment or scheduling problems. I think I've mentioned before that the staff here is wonderful, and that these people, being treated for cancer, are the most "up-beat" cancer patients you'll see anywhere. This whole experience has been eye-opening for us, and I'm hopeful that more folks will be able to take advantage of Proton Therapy.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Another week gone by...

On our way back from treatment Thursday afternoon -- it was, by the way, my 30th -- we found an intermodal train stopped at Milepost 648, near St. John's Avenue. We waited until the north-bound Amtrak Silver Meteor train came past, then got this shot of 5372 pulling for Orlando.

CSX had a problem last night with the crossing gates at Timuquana and spent all day today working on them. Slow orders for all trains made for some short-tempered motorists and a few delays, but we all got where we were going even if it took a bit longer. Sometimes it's good to be a railfan; we enjoy being stopped by trains.

Thursday evening we went out with our fellow Proton Patients for dinner. We really enjoy the friends we've made here. Met some folks yesterday who, like Anita and I, grew up in Wisconsin. Like us, they're looking forward to the Championship game Sunday between the Green Bay Packers and the New York, Giants. If you're not too busy, and live nearby, I understand they need folks to shovel snow off of Lambeau field. FYI, no snow in Jacksonville.

One of the great things about Proton Therapy for prostate cancer is that it isn't debilitating. Those of us undergoing treatment are able to do all the things we were before (I still can't play the piano) and have been able, in most cases, to behave as though this whole thing is a vacation. Anita and I continue to thank God that He led us to the University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The View from the Beach...

After my treatment on Tuesday, we went to downtown Jacksonville and caught their elevated railway. We rode the entire line, stopping south of the river to see the spectacular Treaty Oak tree. It is massive, estimated to be over two centuries old, and is located in Jesse Ball DuPont Park. More information can be found at the web site,
On our way back to our temporary home, we took the scenic route along Riverside Drive. The next picture, of Jacksonville's skyline above the St. John's River, was made from another City Park along the way.

I had an early treatment on Wednesday, so afterwards we decided to go over to the beach since the day was so nice. In addition to several fisherman with their lines in the surf, we watched this shrimper doing his thing off-shore. It was a beautiful day, and we really enjoyed wandering up and down the beach. Anita got a ton of sea shells.
Then last evening we joined some friends from Ortega Presbyterian Church for a study of the Patience of God, using a short monograph by A. W. Pink entitled The Attributes of God. Some of Pink's writings may be found on-line at; I recommend the above title as well as The Sovereignty of God. We had a grand time, and continue to thank God for our new friends here.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Half-way home...

Today I had my 21st Proton Treatment. I'm now half-way through the course prescribed by the team of doctors here at the University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute ( I would encourage anyone who is diagnosed with prostate cancer to learn about this non-surgical alternative. Do a Google search on "Proton Therapy" and check it out.

New friends from Chattanooga, Paul and Patti, drove down on New Years Eve for Paul's three-day workup. We got together for dinner at the Stonewood Grille and got to know one another; had a grand evening. The next day we watched Tennessee beat Wisconsin before driving to the (temporary) home of Paul and Marilyn to join them and Gene and Linda for a wonderful traditional Southern lunch. A blessing of God, who works all things to the good of those who love Him, is the many Christian friends He brings into our lives.

Here in Jacksonville, the Institute staff organize a weekly "Restaurant Tour." To this point my treatment schedule have precluded our taking part, but last evening we joined the group at Bourbon Bayou, a New Orleans-style eating place at Jacksonville Landing. We enjoyed an evening of good food and fellowship with our fellow Proton Pilgrims. Thanks to Gerry and Katie for setting it up.

We've been enjoying, as best we can, our time here in Jacksonville. December weather has been wonderful, right up to the last days of the year. Yesterday was quite cool, with a cold wind blowing. I even got to use the old jacket I brought along. Today was nicer, and the radio promises mid-seventies once again by Sunday. Anita and I wish you all the best in the New Year. God Bless us, every one.