Treated 2002 • Posted 2003 

This is one patient’s account of his first day of proton treatment ...

Hello, from California - my two-month temporary residence!

I arrived in Colton, California, late Tuesday afternoon, the first of October. After finding my apartment complex, I filled out necessary rental paperwork, and went to my apartment. It’s comfortable, fully-furnished, and less than five miles from Loma Linda Medical Facility, where I receive treatment.

On Thursday (10/03/02) at 12:30 p.m., I received my first (of forty) proton-radiation treatment for the prostate cancer. Everything went surprisingly well! What follows describes my activities, experiences, and emotions of that first day of therapy.

I awake at 6:30 a.m., shower, brush my teeth, shave, dress for the day, and have cereal, orange juice, and coffee for breakfast. My mood is the same as other days: upbeat and positive. I don't (and won't) think about negatives in any way, shape, or form.

However, there's a bit of anxiety over the time remaining until my appointment at Loma Linda University Medical Center (LLUMC) Proton Cancer Treatment Center (in Loma Linda, CA). I'm anxious because I'm ready now! I want to get the "show on the road"!

Finally, it's time to leave! The drive to LLUMC takes 10 minutes. After another 5 minutes, I find a parking spot for the Jeep. At 12:10 p.m., I check-in with the receptionist on Level B (proton-treatment floor). She welcomes me with a friendly and sincere smile, phones a radiation specialist, and tells him I arrived.

Within 15 seconds, the specialist is at the reception desk and introduces himself. Sean escorts me to the "Gantry-One" treatment area (one of three such areas). He tells me that all of my 40 proton treatments are to be provided in the Gantry-One area. Sean then takes me to the “Guest” (there are no “patients” at LLUMC) dressing room. I shed all clothing except for t-shirt and socks, and put on the traditional hospital bathrobe-opening to my back.

I return to the area outside the treatment room where Sean awaits. He introduces me to the rest of the professionals assigned to Gantry One: Phillip, Troy, and Deanna. Sean's team works the 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift. A different team works in the Gantry One area from 2 p.m. until 10 p.m. Two teams are assigned to each of the three gantry-treatment areas.

Sean and his team escort me into the treatment room. As Sean explains a few things about the room, my emotions and senses focus on each unique item: Moveable "couch" on which rests my "pod"-a personalized mold of my body made during a first visit to LLUMC (09/12/13), large cylindrical area into which the couch and pod move in-out-up-down, laser beams on top and sides of the cylindrical area (to help ensure I'm properly positioned for each treatment), large vacuum-tube structure/device at the side of the couch/pod through which the proton- radiation beam is transmitted, and an x-ray machine for taking “shots” of my torso to ensure my body-specifically, prostate-is the same position for each treatment.

My adrenalin seems to be at an all-time high as I listen and observe. I'm definitely ready to get the show on the road!! And then Sean says "okay, let's get started."

I get into my individualized pod via a small stepladder at its side. I place my body (face up) into the tight-fitting mold. Once in the pod, I'm asked to role on my side so that a rubbery contraption can be inserted into my rectum. The lubricated "balloon" goes in easily and painlessly. A measured amount of water is then slowly injected into the balloon.

The balloon plays an important role: to help move the rectum wall away from the prostate and to better position and “hold” the prostate in its proper place. Surprisingly, there's minimal discomfort from the water-filled balloon.

With that process completed, I roll back to the proper position: flat on my back with soles of feet against the base, heels resting on the base of the pod.

The next step is to align the pod (and me). This is an exacting process, based on calculations and specifications defined and provided by my physician (Dr. Namihas). For this treatment--and for each subsequent one-x-ray shots are taken to ensure my pelvic area--hence, prostate--is in the exact position it needs to be.

Today's proton radiation is to be transmitted through the right side of my torso. Tomorrow, it's done from the left; the next day the right, etc. It alternates daily. Sean tells me the treatment is about to begin. He excuses himself and his colleagues. They go to the control room where they initiate and monitor the treatment process.

During treatment (approximately 70 seconds), I feel nothing--not a thing!! I hear only a high pitch noise of a metal wheel whirling at high speed and an occasional bell-ringing (or pinging) sound.

Inexplicably, tears come to and flow from my eyes during treatment. It’s unclear why I'm crying. I don't feel worried, frightened, or sad. I'm not thinking negative thoughts. To the contrary, during the entire treatment, I talk to myself in a positive context-repeatedly saying positive affirmations about the treatment (e.g., "positive healing energy"), my body, and expected results.

Perhaps the tears are because I'm relieved there's no pain or discomfort from the radiation treatment. However, I suspect the crying is from a sense of relief-the reality that medical therapy has finally started. It's been nearly six months since learning I have prostate cancer. Finally-after all my research that led to my decision about which treatment to have-the therapy to rid my body of the cancerous cells has begun.

I'm perplexed. Regardless, tears continue. The treatment ends. The sounds stop. The Gantry One Team members return. The balloon is removed.

"That's it; you can get out of the pod," someone says. As I exit the pod, I thank the Team and express my astonishment about not feeling anything during treatment. The pros say nothing, but express their feelings with prideful big smiles. I return to the dressing room, change into my "regular" clothes, and leave for the day.

That recaps my experiences for the first day of therapy-the first of forty treatments (one per day, Monday through Friday). The processes and events described above (including balloon insertion) happen each and every treatment. Each Thursday, I meet with my doctor to discuss how the treatments are going, to find out how I’m feeling, and to address questions I have.

Please feel comfortable asking anything you wish about the treatments and my experiences here in CA.

Hope everything is going well in your world. Things are going well in mine.”