SALT LAKE CITY — A state-of-the-art radiation therapy center officially opened Wednesday at the Huntsman Cancer Institute.
"It’s been one crazy time,” said Taylor Lambert.
Before Lambert turned 20, doctors discovered a brain tumor the size of a golf ball surrounded by a cyst.
“So I’ve got this awesome question mark on the side of my head. It looks really cute when I wear dot earrings,” said Lambert showing off her scar on her scalp.
The tumor was benign and all but gone after two surgeries. She moved on, got married, started her art business. Late last year, it grew back to half its original size.
"Definitely surprising to see how much it had grown in such a short time. Especially because they were skeptical it was going to grow back if at all,” said Lambert.
“We are standing on a diving board of concrete and there is a giant 110-ton gantry that rotates around us,” said Director or Radiation Oncology Dr. Bill Salter.
Lambert is only the second cancer patient to undergo proton therapy at the $31million Senator Orrin G. Hatch Proton Therapy Center at the Huntsman Cancer Institute.
It is the only facility of its kind in the intermountain west.
“The pencil beam of protons comes out of the cyclotron, passes through the nozzle here and exits and hits the tumor,” said Dr. Salter.
The proton beam shines at nearly the speed of light to shrink or eliminate the tumor.
"It boggles my mind and I’m trained in this area,” said Dr. Salter.
Unlike other forms of radiation, proton therapy minimizes harm to important healthy tissue. That means fewer and less serious side effects. For Lambert, it means her risks of infertility are lower compared to traditional radiation.
Lambert has come nearly every day for six weeks for therapy. She has five treatments left.
"I’m excited for the future and what it holds and what the future of this proton therapy center holds for countless others,” said Lambert.
The center is named in honor of Sen. Hatch for his commitment to improve cancer care in Utah. He was one of the earliest supporters of the Huntsman Cancer Institute. He said having his name affiliated with the institution that brings home and healing is one of the greatest honors of his lifetime.