By Heather Kennison, Elko Daily Free PressHusband and Wife Join Radiation Oncology Center
ELKO — Brian Hulse has been on both sides of the radiation therapy table.
Prior to his decision to become a radiation therapist, Hulse was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease, a type of lymphoma. He was 27 years old.
“My chest kept hurting and I was coughing constantly,” Hulse said.
An X-ray revealed a cantaloupe-sized tumor in his chest. Hulse underwent six months of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation therapy to get rid of the cancer.
This spring, Hulse and his wife, Aimee, packed their bags for the move from Atlanta, Georgia, to Elko. The couple have joined the team at the Northeastern Nevada Radiation Oncology Center, which will open next month.
“We wanted to get out of the city and closer to patients,” Brian Hulse said.
Brian Hulse is the lead radiation therapist and department manager at the center. Aimee Hulse is the dosimetrist and can also administer radiation therapy.
“The main goal is to kill 100 percent of the cancer and save as much of the good tissue as possible,” she said.
Northeastern Nevada Radiation Oncology Center is owned by board certified radiation oncologist Dr. Douglas Debenham and Radiation Business Solutions Evolution. It is located adjacent to Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital, from which it leases the building.
Aimee and Brian Hulse met in 2001 through a program at Emory University, where they had decided to go into radiation therapy after leaving their former professions.
“At 30, I was unfulfilled and didn’t know what to do,” Aimee Hulse said.
Aimee Hulse was previously a baker, and Brian Hulse had been working in telecommunications before the market crashed. It was eight years before the couple reunited through their work, and they have been married since 2013.
Aimee, who’s been in the field for about 15 years, didn’t want to come to Elko initially. She changed her mind in December, and was touched by the community response to the Written In Stone event in January.
“We realized how grateful people were to have this in the community,” she said.
The couple found a house they liked in Spring Creek that very weekend.
As dosimetrist, Aimee Hulse will be accepting CT scans from NNRH and mapping out the organs and healthy tissue surrounding the cancer. An Elekta Synergy linear accelerator can administer the treatment to a very targeted area.
“My job is to figure out how that machine is going to move around administering that dose ... while sparing as much healthy tissue as possible,” she said.
Prior to treatments, staff checks and double-checks that everything is lined up — “because we can’t take radiation back,” she said.
Brian Hulse has been involved in getting the center up and running. He will be working with patients and running the machine.
“It’s nice to be able to tell a patient ‘I know you don’t feel well,” he said. “I’ve been there.”
Radiation therapy has made big leaps throughout the years, Aimee Hulse said. There are no immediate effects of the treatment, except it will zap your energy after a few weeks, she said.
Besides cancer, radiation therapy has been used to treat keloids and heterotopic ossification, where bone forms within tissues outside the skeleton.
Denise Gerlach, vice president of marketing for Radiation Business Solutions, said studies have shown that about 150 patients currently travel outside the Elko area for radiation therapy. This center will provide a closer option and will accept anyone, regardless of if they are insured.
The Hulses said they’ve already met a few people in the area who have traveled for treatment. One man, however, had treatable cancer that was spreading.
“The reason he was not treated was that he didn’t want to have to drive,” Brian Hulse said.
Gerlach said billing will be done through company headquarters in Nashville.
“We’re here to literally offer the community what they didn’t already have,” she said.
The center is working with local hotels to offer reduced rates for people coming in from outside of Elko. The county’s transportation department will be making stops at the hospital during its regular routes scheduled to begin June 1.
Also working at the center are Dr. Debenham and front office coordinator Shila Morgan. Another therapist will soon be hired.
The grand opening of the Northeastern Nevada radiation Oncology Center is planned for 4 p.m. June 25. Books from the “Written In Stone” event will be available.
“We’ve never been involved in anything so intimately,” Aimee Hulse said.
The center is currently taking new consultations. For information, call 748-HOPE (4673).