I'm now about 3 weeks into Proton Beam Therapy at Penn with two more to go. After my insurance rejected the therapy three times, my company (ConocoPhillips) actually stepped in the day before I was schedule to start the more harmful treatment and overruled Aetna, somehow forcing them to approve and cover the proton therapy. The doctor and billing manager at Penn were amazed as they had never witnessed an insurance company get manhandled like that before. Obviously I now owe more to Big Oil than I could ever repay. The effectiveness of the proton treatment isn't any better but long-term it should be less damaging to my heart and lungs which are right in the treatment area. Kind of important to keep those in "good" shape.
So far the physical side effects of treatment haven't been to bad, just a minor rash on my chest and some difficulty swallowing. The mental side effects however...there's a lot of waiting around and driving into Philly every day is taking it's toll. The proton machines operate within a very fine level of tolerance and if anything is a little off, it won't deliver treatment. Thinks are off pretty frequently and the delays really add up for the appointments later in the day. Even today when my treatment was slotted for 9:30, just 1.5 hours after they start, I didn't get treated until 11:30. As for the driving, some of these other idiots on the road around me aren't going to make it through this experience. It only took me one week of driving to treatment before I rediscovered my aggressive driving talents and I now own I-76 within a three exit radius of Penn.
Other than that, the fatigue of all the treatment over the past year and a half is really adding up and taking it's toll. I have a much better understanding of how defeating it can be to start exercising when seemingly low levels of activity induce huffing and puffing. I'll be heading back into the the thick of Alaska summer though so I can't afford to let myself go too far. I plan to hit the ground running/riding/climbing when I get back, even if it's more like crawling.
Julie started the long drive back to Anchorage with her sister Angie (and Niko the Dog) on Saturday so she is already on her way home. I hope to join her in a couple of weeks. I'm not putting a date out there because something always comes up and then I'm a liar. They won't do a follow up scan until 2-4 weeks after I'm done getting treatment though so there is nothing for me to stick around for once I'm done. The results of the scan will dictate what I do in September. Cancer can do what it wants for awhile after this radiation, I'm taking the rest of the summer.