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Randy - Cancer of Lymph Node

Randy - Cancer of Lymph Node

What do cancer and a vacation have in common? According to Randall (Randy) Youngren, more than you’d think. This retiree was diagnosed with head-and-neck cancer last fall, just after a trip to Italy, and his key takeaway? It’s time to vacation even more! And he applied that philosophy while undergoing treatment at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) Proton Therapy Center. Every day for six weeks he’d go in for his 15 minutes of “beam time” and then spend the rest of the day sightseeing. Says Randy: “We went to the Space Needle, did a harbor tour, went to the aquarium, played pitch and putt golf, even went to a Sounders game and sat in a box, all made possible by the wonderful people at SCCA. It was like a great vacation, only with cancer.”

As a high school English teacher for 30 years, Randall knew where he had to be every hour of every day. Now, he’s enjoying waking up without an alarm, hanging out with his three grandchildren who live in Bellingham, and planning his next trip. In retirement, Randy is all about the unscheduled time. Oh, and managing his cancer.

When Randy was first diagnosed, the initial tumor was in one of the lymph nodes in his neck. Surgeons removed it, but they were worried. This type of cancer did not typically start in the lymph nodes. Where did the cancer come from? While the doctors were figuring that out, they decided to treat the neck tumor with proton therapy. They recommended protons because of the precision the beam could offer.  “Regular x-rays radiate a wide swath through your body.  With protons, you can control the range and depth to minimize the area that receives the treatment.  The only side effect was a small sunburn-like mark on my neck,” Randy explains.

During his six weeks of treatment, because the four-hour round trip from Bellingham was no fun, he and his wife Teresa often stayed at SCCA House, a hotel for cancer patients near the main campus in South Lake Union. From there, they could walk to Seattle Center, downtown, and Lake Union. “Reasonable rates, great location, a kitchen to make meals in—it was everything we needed to make my treatments possible.”

After his treatment, a subsequent scan discovered another tumor, this time in his kidney. But surgeons at SCCA were able to remove the cancer in June 2016 and save most of the kidney. The surgeons believe they got it all, and Randy feels good. So good, he’s ready to keep vacationing.

“We’re planning a trip to Hawaii in February—never been, so it’s time to go now. That’s what cancer has taught me; vacation sooner, rather than later, because you don’t know what the future brings.”