Mitch Emerson: TrueBeam™ Technology Aids Vet’s Path

Skip to Content

Published on June 22, 2017

TrueBeam™ Technology Aids Vet’s Path

Mitch Emerson

Mitch EmersonWhen Mitch Emerson was an Army Ranger in the 1980s, he was a Pathfinder, paving the way to safe and effective paths for those who followed.

When he needed radiation treatment last fall to treat a cancer diagnosis, he benefited from another Pathfinder of sorts, Varian’s TrueBeam™. This state-of-the-art radiation linear accelerator paves the way for safe and effective treatment for patients at Concord Hospital Payson Center for Cancer Care.

As a disabled veteran, Mitch underwent two surgeries for throat cancer at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital in Boston. For radiation therapy, he wanted to avoid driving a 200-mile roundtrip every weekday for six weeks, so he chose Payson Center after two neighbors in Pittsfield who had been treated there spoke highly of the care they had received.

At Payson Center, Mitch’s treatment team used TrueBeam’s advanced – more precise – radiation and positioning technology to successfully treat his cancer.

Mitch has claustrophobia, brought on in part by being trapped upside down for several days in a crevice during a military mission. As a result, Mitch had difficulty tolerating a hard plastic mask that was molded around his head and shoulders and clamped to the linear accelerator table to prevent him from moving during his 15-minute sessions.

Instead, Dr. Thomas Sheldon and Mitch’s cancer care team stabilized Mitch’s head into a secure position without the mask. Then, the team used TrueBeam’s robotic couch to move the treatment table into precise alignment to give the radiation beams the safest and most effective path to the target tissue, without damaging other tissue or organs.

The robotic couch moves the treatment table in three directions: Pitch, tilting patients forward or backward; Roll, rolling them onto their side; and Yaw, or rotating, clockwise or counterclockwise. Without the new robotic couch, Mitch likely would have had to seek treatment elsewhere. In addition, the crispness of TrueBeam’s advanced imaging and couch robotics allowed Mitch’s treatment team to accurately reproduce the treatment set up and target the radiation with greater precision.

“The machine doesn’t hurt. You hear it going. It’s quiet,” Mitch said. “The machine moves around you, so you just lay there and it’s doing its thing. You’re done before you know it.”

“It did what they said it was going to do. It treated my cancer.”

Mitch sees the TrueBeam linear accelerator as a great tool in the hands of a great healthcare team that made sure he was comfortable during treatment, and helped his wife, Dawn, understand the procedure.

“They took her by the hand and walked her through to let her see how it was done. They explained every step,” Mitch said.

“There is not one person I ever saw in a bad mood there,” he said. “For what they do all day, they are always so friendly and so nice. And you are not just a number. You go down to some places and you are just like an assembly line.”

At 53, Mitch is grateful to his doctors at the VA and Payson Center, and for the TrueBeam technology that saved his life. They’ve allowed him to continue working with some technology of his own, restoring 30-year-old mini-snowmobiles. He sees it as a way to help get kids into snowmobiling. “That’s what I do to fill my time.”