I was so fortunate to be living near a hospital that has the CyberKnife
Bluff City, TN (Vocus) September 3, 2009
Spend one hour with Delaine Anderson, and it's clear she does not shrink from life's challenges. She has spent the last 25 years in the same Bluff City home but lived in different parts of the country before that. She even lived seven years in Greece, where she didn't speak the language. She raised five children. The past few years, Anderson and friends have sent affordable wheelchairs to developing nations for people who can't otherwise afford them.
Anderson knows how to help others - as well as take care of herself. Lung cancer, though, was a challenge that brought her to her knees. And surgery wasn't an option to remove the cancerous spot because doctors were afraid her heart wasn't up to major surgery.
"Oh boy, I was in bad shape," Anderson said. "I couldn't talk to anyone. I just wanted to sit in my chair and cry."
Then she heard a word that gave her new hope: CyberKnife. She learned this innovative technology that uses robotics to deliver precision radiation treatment was available at Bristol Regional Medical Center, the only hospital in the region to offer the CyberKnife Stereotactic Radiosurgery System.
"I was so fortunate to be living near a hospital that has the CyberKnife," Anderson said.
Anderson will receive four CyberKnife treatments this week, and Twitter users throughout the region and from around the country can follow her final treatment in real time via Twitter. Wellmont Health System and its communications partner during this "Twittercast," WJHL 11 Connects, will send out minute-by-minute "tweets" as the CyberKnife team at Bristol Regional treats Anderson's cancer with powerful, incredibly accurate bursts of radiation.
The Twittercast will begin Friday at 10 a.m. as Anderson receives her final treatment. Twitter is a Web site and service that lets users send short text messages up to 140 characters in length to a group of people.
Mobile phone and computer users will be able to track the procedure by following either Wellmont Health System or news anchor Sara Diamond, who will "tweet" for 11 Connects, on Twitter. To follow the procedure, go to twitter.com, search for @wellmonthealth and @sdiamondwjhl, and click "follow." Twitter users may also utilize the hashtag #CyberKnife to follow the procedure.
Wellmont will be the first health system in the United States to "tweet" a CyberKnife procedure in real time.
The cancerous spot on the lower lobe of Anderson's left lung, found by general surgeon : Dr. T.C. Greene, is only about the size of a quarter.
"If Dr. Greene hadn't found that tumor," Anderson said, "I wouldn't even be having this conversation about CyberKnife. The cancer could have ended up spreading through my entire body."
Because CyberKnife delivers high doses of radiation - and does it with sub-millimeter accuracy through the use of robotics - the non-invasive, painless procedure is an ideal treatment in Anderson's case, said Dr. John Fincher, a board-certified radiation oncologist at Bristol Regional.
Dr. Fincher said CyberKnife has proven particularly effective at treating some lung cancers.
"I just saw a lady we treated in 2005 - she had lung cancer, and it never came back," Dr. Fincher said. "The good thing about CyberKnife is you can deliver a much higher dose of radiation in a short time. The lady we treated in 2005, she got in three treatments what she normally would get in six weeks. You basically overwhelm the cancer's resistance to treatment."
Anderson's medical history includes an aortic aneurysm and stent placement for a blocked artery, factors that made CyberKnife a preferred treatment over surgery. But Anderson still felt some trepidation even after she was referred for CyberKnife treatment.
One of Anderson's sons, Tom, traveled from Charlottesville, Va., to be with his mother when she first heard the details about CyberKnife. Treatment is completely non-invasive, requires no anesthesia and is usually completed on an outpatient basis.
"We were afraid she was going to have her lung removed," Tom Anderson said. "When she said they were going to use CyberKnife, I didn't know anything about it before then. I'm the youngest sibling, so I was kind of tasked with getting all the facts."
When Delaine Anderson did get all the facts about CyberKnife, her neighbor and closest friend noticed an immediate difference.
"You could see she was smiling again," said Betty Bailey, who Anderson called a constant source of support.
"When I found out about CyberKnife, I came out of there like I was a different person," Anderson said. "Dr. Fincher explained everything to us and told me what to expect. He must have spent an hour with us to make sure we understood everything."
Though she does not use Twitter, Anderson understands it will be used to communicate what's happening during her final CyberKnife treatment. She is OK with the concept of a "Twittercast" of her procedure, while being slightly anxious at the thought of receiving extra attention.
"I'm just an ordinary person; I'm nobody special," Anderson said. "But if somebody who doesn't know about CyberKnife finds out about it and ends up needing it, then it's a good thing."