Cyclist chooses proton therapy to treat non-hodgkin lymphoma


About two weeks before Harvey turned 73, he discovered a lump over his left collarbone. “It just showed up when I looked in the mirror,” he says. He went to get it checked out by his doctor, and although a sonogram did show the lump, a needle biopsy didn’t reveal anything unusual. That didn’t seem right, so his doctor sent Harvey in for a computer tomography (CT) scan, which would be better able to scan the lump. “It identified this group of enlarged lymph nodes,” says Harvey, “which suggested cancer. The next stop was another biopsy.”

The second biopsy showed probable non-Hodgkin, small B-cell, marginal-zone lymphoma.

After hearing several positive anecdotal reports from his friends, Harvey looked into Fred Hutch for treatment. His first doctor, Dr. Ryan Lynch, told Harvey that he was in no imminent danger, but that the disease had no cure and the plan was surveillance. Dr. Lynch proposed a bone marrow biopsy and another CT scan to get a baseline.

But when the bone marrow biopsy came back clean, Dr. Lynch instead recommended radiation as the next step.

Harvey went to see Dr. Yolanda Tseng at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center - Proton Therapy. They talked about all types of radiation, and how proton therapy offered less radiation exposure to healthy tissue.

“The talk about side effects made me anxious,” says Harvey. “But, as my doctor put it, this was likely the only time ‘the cat’s in the bag and effective proton radiation treatment is possible.’ Then Dr. Tseng started using the word ‘cure,’ which I hadn’t thought was possible. I was grateful that they took the time to help me make the decision to go ahead with treatment.”

“The ultimate decision to treat Harvey with proton therapy surfaced after slow but deliberate dialogue,” echoes Dr. Tseng. “And it allowed us to select the best therapy for him and his goals. Because proton therapy stops precisely in the tumor and doesn’t have an exit dose, we were able to alleviate some of Harvey’s fears about side effects.”

Harvey is a cyclist and has done many long-distance rides, including the Redspoke and Seattle-to-Portland (STP) rides. Most long rides offer a degree of camaraderie and opportunities for friendship, but he especially felt the connection during his first Wheels of Love ride, a pediatric rehab fundraiser in Jerusalem, Israel, that was life changing. “This ride with like-minded individuals made me realize that relationships are the most valuable things I have.”

And that’s what he enjoyed most when he came for treatment at the proton therapy facility. The close relationships with his doctors and staff made a big difference to him.

Once he began treatment, every day in the lobby at the facility Harvey considered it a privilege to enter other people’s lives and offer something to them, be it kind words, advice or friendship. “There’s a huge multiplier between the effort it takes you to be kind, and the reception of your kindness by the other person,” he says.

“I am grateful that my medical concerns have opened doors to create further relationships, both with other patients and the incredible staff. I felt very emotional during the last days of proton therapy. I felt like I was leaving behind family.”
— Harvey
Harvey poses with his care team, each giving a smile and thumbs up
Harvey labeled this photo "My Family."

To show his gratitude, Harvey brought in a card, candies, and a couple dozen roses on his last day. “What they do makes such a difference,” he says. “I was so lucky to have them on my care team, and to have Dr. Tseng as my doctor.”

Now Harvey is waiting for positron emission tomography (PET) scan results to see if treatment was successful, although the “peapod” above his collarbone is now almost undetectable. Although he spends more time reading than riding these days, he promises to be out on his Landshark bike again, and he might even give the STP another shot this year. He’s longing to build more of those relationships.

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