What is Proton Therapy

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Featured Video

Monica Clarke speaks about how proton therapy helped her son become a cancer survivor. Monica Clarke: My name is Monica and my husband’s name is Gregor, and we have 7-year-old twins, Garrett and Natalie. Garrett is an amazing kid. He wants to figure out why and how things work, how things are put together, he loves playing with his friends, playing outside. He’s just very mature for a 7-year-old. Garrett’s diagnosis was embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma. It’s a very rare and fast-growing tumor. His tumor was located right by the lachrymal gland, which is his tear gland, so it was inoperable. The tumor became very, very large. The biggest obstacle was what the treatment was going to be, was it going to shrink the tumor? How is affecting his eye? Is it putting pressure on his eye? Will it affect his vision? So it was a lot of ifs. Garrett’s radiation doctor is Dr. Ralph and he made us feel very comfortable, he listened to us, gave us all the information, answered our questions and addressed our concerns and worked with us. Dr. Ermoian: We chose proton radiation because we knew that by using that we would effectively treat the tumor but we could really reduce his long-term side effects in some important ways: fewer effects on his pituitary gland which controls hormones in his body; fewer effects on other bones so they would continue to grow well, as he grows larger; and fewer effects on his learning in the future. Monica: With proton therapy they are able to target the area. The radiation goes directly to that area, doesn’t go through it, doesn’t go around it, so it’s not affecting the healthy tissue, and this being right next to his brain, that was going to be a major benefit. So Garrett had 24 chemo treatments and 25 daily radiation treatments. I was very comfortable sending Garrett back for his daily treatment with Nikki and Brittani. They made it fun, they made it easy for him, they always played music during his treatments. After every treatment they walked him back out to the waiting room where I was waiting for him. On October 24 of 2013 we were told he was cancer free! Now that this major, difficult journey has come to an end our family is looking forward to enjoying the summer and that he can go back to being a normal kid. My husband and I are very relieved that Garrett’s treatment, both chemo and proton therapy, were so successful. We are very thankful to both Seattle Children’s and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance Proton Therapy for their care, their understanding, their patience, and their excellent care that they gave our son. So for other families that their doctor is recommending proton therapy: it will be easier on you as a family because you’ll know it will be easier on your child. The staff here are absolutely fantastic. You become part of the family. Garrett: When I grow up I’m going to… I want to work here.