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TRIUMF | Vancouver, BC | Canada

View Blog | Read Bio

Witness to Beauty

–by Lindsay Davies, Communications Assistant

G’day Mates!

Less than 24 hours ago, I had the opportunity of a lifetime and plunged into the depths of the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Cairns, Australia. The largest reef system, it encompasses an area of over 344,400 square kilometers – including over 2,900 individual reefs, 900 islands, and over 15,000 species of fish and wildlife.

If you need a jolt of reality to put things into perspective – scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef will do that for you. Entirely surrounded by water, you can’t help but feel so incredibly small in such a vast foreign world. A visitor to the great depths, you witness so much wonder that not even Planet Earth can fully describe how it feels to see it for your own eyes. It’s something you hope everyone can experience for themselves within their lifetimes, but unfortunately there’s so many factors to prevent this – money, time, accessibility… and health.

Just before I left to travel down under, I was able to meet with a few of the individuals who work with the Proton Therapy division within TRIUMF. I knew that we treated patients here at TRIUMF with severe eye melanoma, but that was the extent of my knowledge. They were kind enough to show me the room where the therapy takes place and explain to me the preparation and procedure entailed in treatment, along with some statistics. Our Proton Therapy treatment has an over 90% success rate in curing eye melanoma – in all ages! Unfortunately due to the required power needed to treat patients (70-100 MeV), we need medium-sized accelerator cyclotrons to be built which are expensive (in our case, we primarily use the main cyclotron to get this power). Due to this we can only treat so many patients per year, we only treat the severe cases where the patient has the choice of this, or it is likely they will lose their sight. Despite this, we are still able to give those who pass through our doors a great chance at keeping their eyesight, so they can witness all the great things they know, want to know, and love. Research is also being done to try and reduce the cost of these cyclotrons in order to have the ability to treat more patients all over the world, so we can hope to have more treatments available in the not too far away future!

As a tourist jumping in and observing the beauty the Great Barrier Reef has to offer, you can’t help but feel lucky to witness the beauty, and I like to think that those who receive our treatment will be able to witness similar beauty for themselves.

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