Living in Austin, Texas, Nate Pack is familiar with how common cedar fever is during the months of December and January. Therefore, he initially believed cedar fever was the cause for his swollen lymph nodes. After getting an ultrasound, needle biopsy and PET/CT scan, doctors informed Nate that there was cancer in his lymph nodes located in his neck.
In April 2017, Nate had surgery to remove 33 lymph nodes. Despite not knowing the source of cancer, doctors believed the cancer had likely metastasized. Doctors recommended a treatment of radiation and chemotherapy. So, Nate began to do his own research and discovered proton therapy treatment for head and neck cancers.
Unlike traditional radiation, proton therapy has the ability to precisely target the cancer while sparing nearby healthy tissue. Also, proton therapy significantly reduces the side effects such as nausea, loss of appetite and dry mouth resulting from radiation.
“Traditional radiation would be more detrimental to my salivary glands, my teeth, my thyroid glands, taste buds and hearing,” Nate said.
Nate arrived at the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center in June 2017 where he received a total of 30 treatments.
The retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel is an avid volunteer at the non-profit organization called Hopeful Hearts. The organization helps rehabilitate rescue horses used to help individuals with special needs or those recovering from trauma. Therefore, one of the main concerns for Nate was recovering quickly to continue his volunteer work as a horse handler.
“I love working with rescue horses and kids,” Nate shared. “It is heavy work and I thought I wouldn’t be able to maintain that lifestyle.”
With proton therapy, Nate was able to return to volunteering much sooner than what he expected.
“Proton therapy is your best chance to continue your current lifestyle because other treatments could further reduce your capacity to work,” Nate said.
Nate is back to spending quality time with his wife of 50 years, Connie, and his daughter, Natalie. In his leisure time, he loves doing outdoor landscaping.