Day 54

As expected, it was great to sleep in. We moved our gear and bikes out of the gym and library onto the stage in order to make space for other events going on in the church. Stepping outside this morning, the extreme heat wave already was robbing cool night air from the city. Boise is smoky today. We are aware of the forest fires filling the west, and prepared for the possibility of shuttling rides through smoke or closed areas.

At Saint Alphonsus, we were met by Paula, a director of the hospital, who Ryan contacted for our event day. In the cancer care center, we started in the Infusion Room, where chemotherapy and bone narrow biopsies are administered. The patient chairs have a view of the mountains. In this ward, we met several breast cancer fighters. They were awesome people to meet and we feel very inspired by their will to conquer cancer. There is also a bell at the desk which patients will ring at the end of treatment to celebrate.

Saint Alphonsus has their own pharmacy for mixing cancer drugs. Stephanie is a pharmacist, and she helps make all the chemo drugs in chemo hoods. She explained the process of how drugs are safely mixed and customized to each patient. This includes the use of a clean room and advanced biosafety hoods. We also met some chemotherapy nurses. We heard from a oncologist who told us his job is rewarding because of the people who are as positive and encouraging as the ones we met in the infusion room.

Next we went to the Radiation Room, which is surrounded by concrete walls to prevent the leaking of hazardous energy to the surrounding hospital. There we heard from a radiation therapist who explained to us her education and the equipment in the room. The Varian RapidArc machine ($3 million, 6 years old) is incredibly complex and uses a linear accelerator to create the beams. We met two dosymetrists who design treatment plans for the radiation therapies. One fascinating tidbit is that they have to radiate areas an additional 2 cm around the tumor for lung cancer because the patient is breathing during treatment. Sometimes, for earlier stage cancers, radioactive seeds are placed directly in the tumor center for an inside-out approach. Intensity modulated radiation allows for higher dosage and better control of radiation to uniquely shaped rumors.

We heard briefly from a radiation oncologist. Then we moved onto research. Two research coordinators on staff with the hospital told us a bit about the different stages of clinical trials and how these are highly encouraged at Saint Alphonsus. There is a lot of background screening and complex protocols which must be followed for the process of each trial. The researchers feel that their jobs are rewarding because they get to see the data and outcomes of these new surgeries, screenings, and treatments.

Integrative care is critical to cancer patients. Interestingly, social workers put a lot of thought into the atmosphere of the treatment rooms. For example, the ceiling of the radiation room has an colorful image of hot air balloons. As we finished up the tour, we met a nutritionist who takes care of the dietary needs of all the patients. We are incredibly grateful to Saint Alphonsus for the opportunity to learn about their cancer treatment center today. The people we met were encouraging and incredibly kind!

We had a break during which we shopped around and showered at Zenergy once again. We are so thankful to them for allowing us to use their luxurious facilities and to Ryan for coordinating everything wonderful that happened at this stayover.

Paula and Scott Coulter hosted us at their house for dinner. They totally understood the fact that cyclists eat a lot of food and they had delicious chicken, rice, and grapes for the meal. It was followed by popsicles and fun games of bags. We got back pretty late and are ready to sleep for a bit before leaving Boise tomorrow morning.

Fun fact: Boise is pronounced “Boy-see,” not “Boy-zee,” and it’s certainly not “Boys.”

Our team met this incredibly strong girl, Erin, who is a patient at Saint Alphonsus.

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