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Rachel - Brain Cancer

Rachel - Brain Cancer

Rachel was diagnosed with low-grade glioma astrocytoma, a brain tumor, while in her late 20s, and received proton therapy after surgery. Here are her answers to our questions about her journey.

How did you discover you had cancer?

I found out about my brain cancer after having an episode of three seizures. When I awoke in the hospital they told me they had found a tennis-ball-sized tumor in my head. I would need to undergo brain surgery to remove it as soon as possible at UW Medicine. The surgery went very well and they were able to take out about 80 percent of the tumor. Once I found out it was malignant, we needed to discuss after-care.

How did you find out about proton therapy?

Being a healthy, young adult, the doctors told me about a new and effective type of radiation at the SCCA Proton Therapy Center. You hear about radiation and all of the side effects that come with it. It's easy to become nervous or afraid of how your own body may react to it. Getting treatment from SCCA Proton Therapy Center took away any fear that I may have had. I give so much credit to the wonderful staff: nurses, doctors, naturopathic doctors, therapists, front desk, etc.

What will you remember most from your treatments at SCCA Proton Therapy Center?

I will remember the people best. In fact, I have stayed in contact with a couple of them to this day! They make you feel very welcome and comfortable on your first day and every day forward. If I ever had questions before or after treatment, they were easy to get a hold of and very timely in their response. 

What do you tell your friends about proton therapy?

The treatment itself was noninvasive for me. This is one of the things that worried me the most before starting. I wanted to be able to continue to live a life of normalcy, despite what was going on in my body. I lost a bit of hair, but I felt strong throughout the entire 6 weeks of proton therapy, and my blood work verified that I stayed healthy. I was able to go back to work and carry on with a regular life the entire time. This was a huge deal for me, because I am a very active individual.

Rachel (on right) with her mother and sisters.

What are your hobbies? Were you able to continue during treatment?

I love hiking, working out, skiing, traveling etc. These are all things I was able to continue doing with no trouble at all.

Rachel and her friend hike in the Pacific Northwest.

Did you move to Seattle for an extended period of time for your treatments? If so, were there any fun activities in the city were you able to enjoy?

I do live in Olympia, so making the 3-hour trip to and from Seattle every day was a lot of driving. However, I used to live in Seattle and have many friends there now as well. I was able to stay up in the city every other week for a 5 days at a time. It's a wonderful place with so much to do. You have museums, the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, beautiful parks overlooking Puget Sound. Night life is entertaining as well, with many different restaurants and bars and breweries. 

What is your prognosis and current health today?

Today, I am doing so well. I am still in full health and have very little to no side effects from the surgery and proton therapy. My life has taken a huge change since the day I found out about my diagnosis. It will be something I have to deal with for the rest of my life; something I cannot change. But when you are involved with places like SCCA Proton Therapy Center, who are advanced in their research and dedicated to the patients they treat, it makes that change easy to deal with. I cannot thank everyone there enough for what they have done for me and many others.