Some more about proton therapy

proton compensator and aperture

I finally got my hands on one of the brass apertures that was used for my proton radiation therapy.  It took a few months for the radioactivity to decay to safe levels, and my parents were finally in the area and picked it up for me.  That’s it on the right.  It governed the shape of the radiation beam that was fired at my chest/neck, and was milled to the exact shape needed to treat my tumor from a certain angle that minimized exposure to the healthy bits in my body.  This particular disk was just one of several used for the upper half of my treatment area.  My tumor was so big that they had separate disks that they swapped out to treat the lower half of my tumor.  The treatment area was double what the cutout in the brass disk is.  The baseball is just there to give a size reference.  When I told you I had a cancerous tumor the size of a softball in my chest, I was not exaggerating.

The blue plastic disk is the compensator, which I’ve mentioned before, which dictates how deep the radiation penetrated into my body.  Areas with less plastic absorbed less energy, allowing the radiation beam to penetrate deeper into my tissues.  Like the 6 brass apertures, there were corresponding plastic compensators to for each angle of treatment, and so while I don’t know that this particular pair were used together, it gives a better picture of how the technology works.  The brass aperture defined the area the protons were allowed to hit me, the plastic compensator defined how deep they went inside me.

Let’s catch up

It’s been awhile.  Ever since vacationing in California I’ve been disconnecting from technology more and spending more time outside in nature, whether that’s on my road bike, or at the beach, or on my back patio drinking beer and watching the light get low.  The faster I catch up with the past 6 weeks of THINGS the faster I feel that I myself can get back to my regularly scheduled program.  And it’s necessary, because with all this time outside, I’ve been enjoying my time, but I stopped making things.  I stopped writing, I stopped taking my camera along with me places, I stopped.

I ran a 25k in mid-May and beat my PR from 2 years ago by 5 minutes.  And 2 years ago was when I was in the middle of Ironman-type training for the Ohio Triple T – 4 triathlons in 3 days.  I was running a lot and in good shape, just about to start my taper, and I ran what I thought was my best race ever.  Until this year.  Despite not doing any real running training, and only having one long run of 9 miles this spring, I was optimistic after having easily bested my 10k PR a week earlier.  The plan for the Riverbank Run was to start with the 7:00 min/mile pace group and see how long I could hang on.  No more trying to even split races or holding back and regretting not running faster at the beginning of the race.running

Conditions were literally perfect – overcast and in the 50s – and I started off well.  I surprised myself by holding pretty even 7:00 min/miles for the first 7 miles of the race before my splits started to slip.  But not by much.  They all stayed comfortably under 8:00 min, and given the few rolling on the back half of the course, I wasn’t sad.  I was a little upset that there was no official split at the 13.1 mile mark, but guessing where it was along the road and looking at my watch, I’m pretty sure I ran my fastest half marathon at around 1:35-ish.  The last couple miles were flat and hard, but I was still passing people all the way home, so I somehow went out even more conservatively than those around me.  I finished in 1:50:24 and was spent, but glowing.  Without training, I killed my time from 2 years ago where I was training a ton.  I’m not even in super great shape right now, I’m certainly heavier than I was 2 years ago, but I so far this “not being sick” thing is delivering good results.

Naturally, we went to Founders for recovery beverages after the race.

I spent another full week in Alabama.  This time by myself.  It was mostly unexciting.  I played golf once.  The wait staff at the Japanese sushi place already recognize me because I’ve been there enough times.

Thanks to a warm winter and spring, I’ve already ridden more miles on my bike than I did all of last year.  And I’ve been out of town for 3 weeks sans-bike during prime riding time too.  I spend a lot of my time biking, which I enjoy greatly, but it leaves little time for other activities, which I’m starting to miss.  All my bike rides leave fun stories to chat about, but only with the half dozen or so people I regularly ride with.

I turned 26.

I went to Chicago for a weekend to prep for Neocon (big annual contract furniture show).  I was wined and dined and met lots of fellow employees and caught up with several old friends and even did a little bit of work.  It was an absolutely gorgeous and energizing weekend in the city.  From running along the lakeshore in the morning to lunches and dinners and drinks with new people with new ideas, I was living the good life.  Chicago really is one of the best summer cities.  It was hard to come back to the quietness of Holland.

I managed to find a reason to go back to Chicago for the day on Wednesday for work “research”, which was very educational.  I was always a little bitter that I never got to go to Neocon when I was at Herman Miller.  But apart from that, I really have been enjoying my new job and all the people I work with.  I think it was a very necessary change of scenery.


I got new glasses, because though my old ones had a “scratch-resistant coating”, they were not “scratch proof”.  A couple weeks with a metal camera body without an eyepiece and I had done more damage than I realized.  We’ve also been doing some good work on our backyard.  We converted a spent whiskey barrel into a composter.  We built a few sections of fence where we took down a tree last year to give us some privacy from our neighbor.  We built flower beds and planted a few vegetables as well as started growing a variety of hops.  Homebrewing from scratch may be a future project.

Let’s start making things again.