Bruce Cross was one of the doctors that did it. He sat by the computer in a room near the Gamma Knife in the hospital. He described the machine as "201 beams aimed from all different directions," which went into Tempe's head.
Cobalt 60 is encased in 201 steel cases. The element is so coveted by terrorists, Homeland Security has to get involved whenever it's moved. That happened in September of this year, when the Cobalt was about half as powerful as it was 5 years ago, and needed to be changed out.
"Gamma knife is, and has been, and will be, the most precise radiation instrument that we have," explained Dr. Grant Rine.
The preciseness comes from the titanium head frame, as Dr. Rine demonstrated. "This head frame is attached to the patient's head in a manner like this," as he put it over his head, and showed where the metal screws would go into the patient's skull. That holds the head steady, to keep it still. One small movement would have the 201 beams of radiation trained on the wrong part of the brain - the healthy part. "Gamma knife is sort of a gold standard, fixed instrument that does nothing but brain tumors," said Dr. Rine.
Doctors say it's one of the best ways to treat anything in the brain, if you can stand to lie still for extended periods of time. But it can't be used on the rest of the body.
"It's hard to get anything but a head inside a Gamma knife," said Dr. Rine with a smile. "It has one purpose."
But as humans, we're always moving, even if it's simply breathing, and there's still a little bit of motion.
"As we breathe, everything moves," explained Dr. Rine. "Your intestines move, your lungs move, sometimes your head moves."
Since you can't hold your breath and not move for 20 minutes, the Trilogy machine moves with you. "It's called 4D radio therapy," explained Dr. Rine. "In 4D, we move into the time domain, where the body is in motion. Now we have tumors moving. Now, instead of a field this big, so that as the field moves, it's moving inside our view, we just literally follow the tumor as it moves."
This machine, which should be ready for use before the end of the year, also moves Wesley into a new area of cancer treatment. "It closes the loop on complete comprehensive cancer care within the surrounding area," said Kathy Riedel, director if imaging at Wesley. "By having the trilogy, the Gamma Knife, and then this comprehensive program, we'll be able to treat all manners of cancer. So it's a community cancer care initiative."
So two machines, one head frame - and some cobalt 60 - are Wesley's secrets to fighting cancer.
And, hopefully, the secret to a happy ending for the Fitzpatrick family.