PROTON RADIATION THERAPY – PART I

OCTOBER, 2008

Carrie and I left for Boise, ID early on Wednesday morning.  It was a leisurely drive on I90 over the Snoqualmie Pass through Eastern Washington into Northern Oregon.  We drove passed Stanfield, Oregon, and said “hi” through the window.  That Stanfield was one of the largest sheep herders in the country, at the time, and had donated so much land to the city they named it after him.  The car we drove was packed, with rear window visibility, and a Thule storage compartment on the roof completely stuffed.

We learned that Thule’s must market to folks who drive less than 60 mph and not for us road warriors traveling at 80 mph.  At Boise’s Home Depot, we bought straps Wednesday evening before dinner, to lock down the Thule from warbling.  Thursday morning, after a quick breakfast we left Boise before the sunrise.  Once on the highway, the new bright yellow straps started singing their own tune.  It became a challenge finding the right speed limit to silence these tightly strung noise makers.

After a few hours of cruising, we passed through Gooding, ID., where dad was born, and the town disappear so fast in the distance there wasn’t time to stop and ask “did you know the Stanfield’s that lived here 95 years ago?”  I had to reflect on what kind of a man dad’s father must have been to have settled in a town so far from anywhere.  It didn’t take me long to come to the conclusion, that wherever he came from, it must have been much worse than Gooding, ID.

Several trial and errors later, while cruising through Wyoming, a fleece blanket stuffed on the roof, under the front of the Thule, hadn’t silenced it.  But, we both noticed an 18 wheeler with straps across its load.  They were twisted.  We learned and followed the truckers approach and after that, it no longer rumbled like a bumble bee and we could return to cruising speeds of 80 mph silently to complete that days long 12 hour drive to Denver.

Friday morning, I had to lead a conference call and we got a late start on the day.  The call went well and it was worth holding it because I needed the positive motivation to get going into the weekend.  Pain killers didn’t hurt, either.

I knew that it was going to be another long day of driving.  It was, and we saw the east side of Colorado paralleling Kansas’s border before crossing into the panhandle of Oklahoma.  I began to think that dad was out there laughing his ass off while we blazed a trail through his old stomping grounds.  And, now I know why he loved Alaska so much.
He wasn’t missing anything back home.

That night, hours after crossing the Texas border and having our first Blue Bell vanilla ice cream cone we arrived in Fort Worth.  Our hotel was located right in the heart of the Ft. Worth Stock Yards.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to site see, but, from our hotel room window Saturday morning Carrie could see a parade of horseback riders and covered wagons go by that took close to a half hour.  This is the place, that many years ago, railcars delivered cattle on the hoof, in from the ranches, and the roundtrip ticket for the inbound passengers found them butchered cuts of meat ready for the markets and someone’s table.  It is now a huge tourist attraction – and I had no idea it was such a big deal.  It really gives you a sense of the Texas culture just to see how the cattle market evolved.  And where cowboys fit into the process.

So much for timing, I was reminded we weren’t tourists and we needed to get back on the road.

Saturday we arrived in Houston, mid-afternoon, after what seemed to be a short 250 mile trip ending over 2,335 miles in four days.  While cruising at 80 mph on the I45 from Dallas to Houston, we were passed by caravans of cars and trucks averaging at least 100mph.

We found our new apartment complex where we had been promised a furnished apartment upon arrival, but, we had our first bad news.  After filling out more paperwork than we did on our last mortgage, we were given access to the apartment, but, the furniture wasn’t there.  I just took advantage of the apartments emptiness and the first thing was to vacuum.  Ugh.  This apartment complex is the size of Palmer, AK and the average age is —- well, single, noisy at night, and first time apartment dwellers.  We were asked to fill in the “current condition” form.  We asked for additional paper.  I think the plumber comes tomorrow to replace the toilet; for starters.

Saturday afternoon after unpacking the car and leaving behind what we could trust losing to a thief, we went to the Mexican Farmers Market off 610 loop.  It had been moved to the building next door.  The original building was destroyed Hurricane Ike.  We have a constant reminder that something horrible happened here a short while ago.  We loaded up on vegetables and fruits on Saturday, and stocked the fridge. Sunday, I took Carrie for a drive around Houston.  We like doing that in Seattle.  There, it is usually a 10 to 12 mile drive.  When we arrived back at the hotel we logged over 125 miles just inside the city limits.  This place is so huge and the freeways are so fast that Houston is becoming Germany’s version of the Autobahn.

Monday, I had my “simulation” at MDAnderson Proton Treatment Center.  This is a practice procedure to determine the “plan” of attack.  My prostate gland is bigger than they thought and the Lupron shot didn’t have the impact they had planned for, either.  Lupron is used to reduce the size of the prostate.  Or, if you need chemical castration, its good for that too.  After the first MRI they wanted to send us home for two more months until they could figure out how to shrink the prostate gland even more.  They took a total of three MRIs rather than the scheduled two.  I just couldn’t think of driving 2,335 miles home, lose the rent deposit, etc.  But, after the third MRI, the Dr. decided to move me to the “big” proton machine that has a wider footprint.  After a stressful 30 minute wait, the doctor arrived with my new proton beam schedule and informed us we are still on track for being done 12/12. Instead of a 11:10am appointment it is now daily at 5:30pm (CST) which is perfect as I’d leave my office in Redmond by four thirty to catch the “Connector” shuttle bus home.

We were relieved.

With that news we headed back to see if we had furniture.  When we got back everything in the fridge was frozen solid.  The furniture finally arrived around 3:30pm and we were settling in for the next two months.  If everything was going to freeze it was back to the store and we now have a beautiful delicious gallon of vanilla Blue Bell ice cream in the freezer and a case of A&W Root Beer in the fridge.

We just have to stay focused on our priorities.

Tuesday morning it is was counting down:  60 days until we see Houston in the rear view mirror.  And then, the doctor called at noon.  After a consultation with his superior, he has postponed my therapy for a minimum of 8 to 10 weeks.  He has me seeing a Urologist on Monday for a consultation to schedule a procedure with him on Thursday to reduce the size of my prostate by 20 to 25%.  Healing time is 8 to 10 weeks.  The procedure is either a repeat of what I had 6+ years ago called Indigo Laser Surgery or a more surgical version called a TURP.  If you search for it on the internet, you’ll get more of an idea why it will take so long to heal.

Otherwise, if we had proceed on Monday with Proton Therapy the consequences would be scar tissue causing me to wear a urine bag, draining it four times a day for the rest of my life.  Carrie and I are sitting here looking at each other and wondering what to do.  We may be here for the next four to five months.

Monday, while in the waiting room at the proton therapy center, we saw a young child about 8 to 10 years old suffering with cancer.  He couldn’t walk without his mother and his grandmother’s assistance.  He couldn’t speak.  He only wailed from his pain while his mother tried straightening his twisted arms and legs.  His life has been reduced to a medical experiment.  When we left after the simulation, he must have been taken in for his therapy, while his mother slept on the couch and his grandmother stared out into the openness of the waiting room.

If we get this next procedure done, heal according to plan, get the proton therapy started the first of the year, we’ll be home in time for our vacation to Hawaii in March. It was then I realized just how lucky we are.

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Rick Stanfield

Patrick A. “Rick” Stanfield is known for his successful and lengthy sales and marketing career in the computer and software industry that began in Anchorage, Alaska. After leaving Seattle, WA as a second grader, Rick received most of his formal education in the Greater Anchorage Area School District, Catholic Junior High School and graduated from West Anchorage High School in 1967. After attending Mesa State College and the University of Alaska/Anchorage, he began working in office equipment sales in the early 1970s. His passion for technology and what was called “Information Processing Industry” led him to a new job in Honolulu, Hawaii and eventually to Wang Laboratories, Inc. where Rick spent time from 1979 to 1996 in various sales and sales management roles. After leaving Hawaii in 1986 and finally Wang, Rick joined Oracle Software in 1996 which led him back to Seattle where he would soon joined Microsoft Corporation in 1998. Since joining Microsoft, Rick has led the development of many enterprise sales training programs for various sales positions and customer segments. Rick is the father of three daughters: Sara, Ashley and Jayme. Retired, now, Rick lives in his Madrona neighborhood in Seattle, WA, with his wife Carrie.

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