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Rance Patterson's Heavy Particles

Rance Patterson's Heavy Particles

If you were to put yourself in Rance Patterson’s shoes, you’d make it around the globe.

As a contract programmer, Rance and his college sweetheart, Julie, have traveled for most of their adult lives. Jobs took them from Utah to Pasadena, Ellensburg to Bellevue. They eventually settled their family in Bellevue, while Julie attended the University of Washington for her graduate degree in Library Sciences. 

Travelers and nomads at heart, the Patterson’s dreamed of retiring and moving abroad once their children finished school. But when Julie was presented with an opportunity to be a librarian abroad, they consulted with their children, Emma (15), Laura (13) and Tyler (11). With their enthusiastic blessing, they packed their bags for Mumbai, India. Together, they immersed themselves in new cultures, traveled to other countries and explored their new home.

But in December of 2015, Rance, 42, had a series of unusual nosebleeds.

“I can tell you the exact date they started, because I never get nosebleeds,” said Rance. “It was December 15.”

Over the next several weeks, Rance averaged one to two nosebleeds per day. He powered through the holidays, as the family traveled throughout Thailand and Nepal. But when he got back to Mumbai, he made a call to his brother, a medical professional. Following his advice, Rance immediately sought medical attention. An ENT took one look up his nose and ordered a CAT scan.

Rance was diagnosed with a very rare form of Adenocarcinoma, the type of cancer that forms in mucus-secreting glands throughout the body. The stage-III tumor, first identified as benign, had filled his entire left sinus area.

In April, Rance went into surgery. What was supposed to be a quick, two-hour job turned into five, grueling hours. His surgeon found Rance’s tumor was wide spread, pushing up against his cranium and his eye socket. Once the surgeon took everything he could out, it was time for radiation.   

“I didn’t quite trust radiation. I wanted to find a treatment center that specialized in head and neck cancers, and it didn’t take me long to find SCCA Proton Therapy Center,” Rance recalled. “It was amazing that I could come back to where I came from and get world-class treatment.” 

Under the guidance of Dr. George Laramore, Rance received a combination of proton and neutron therapy, a unique recipe for his rare condition. Both neutrons and protons use heavy particles to target tumors, and Seattle is one of the only places in the US where you can receive both. Neutron therapy is especially good at controlling salivary gland cancers.

Though Rance’s family had to stay in Mumbai, “the center is amazing at making you feel human,” Rance said. “They knew my name the first time I came through the front door, and it’s hard to explain, but there’s no pity there. They’re very professional and treat your like a human being. It made it easier to go into treatment, because it was like I was going to see my friends.”

Once school was out, Rance’s family joined him in Seattle for his final weeks of proton therapy. He completed his treatment on June 30 and looks forward to getting back on the road with his family. This time, it will be a family reunion in Davenport, Iowa.”

A family member who is constantly on his mind is Rance’s father, whom he lost to cancer 12 years ago. He battled a rare form of blood cancer, with no treatment available.

“With each advance we can change more cancer stories into survivor stories like mine, and fewer stories of loss like my father’s,” Rance said. “I caught my cancer early, and was able to keep living my life. Living abroad has made me appreciate the simple things in my life – my family, especially. And in a similar sense, so has proton therapy.”