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AE0BQ cancer update

Posted on by AE0BQ

Well, I’m not dead.

I recently ended treatment, albeit a week early, and am slowly recovering from the debilitating effects. I decided to end treatment a week early because the target radiation dose was 70 Gray, and there are trials running 50 Gray for the exact same type of cancer. My cumulative dose was already 60 Gray.

The biggest problem was chronic nausea leading to dehydration, malnutrition, and fatigue. Lost 50 pounds (good for heart, BP) and was on IV fluids (saline gravity drip) for a time. Had a bit of pain when swallowing as well. Spent most of the time sleeping.

Perhaps the worst aspect is the high-viscosity mucus that accumulates in the throat. Normally reflexive swallowing clears saliva, but apparently that doesn’t happen due to the high viscosity, and the swallowing pain is probably a factor as well. When it accumulates, it triggers vomiting along with potential for aspiration. I’ve aspirated stomach acid a few times, very unpleasant and painful, but thankfully did not lead to pneumonia, just some acute laryngitis that cleared on its own. Anyway, I found that by sleeping on my right side, the gurgling wakes me up, then I do a deep clear (i.e. hawk a giant loogie) and go back to sleep. Sleeping on the left side tends to result in aspiration into the laryngeal vestibule, which triggers vomiting and potential aspiration. TMI, right?

Daily intake now consists of an short-term anti-emetic (ondansetron) followed by a Boost Plus, and 500 mL water, 2x a day. So only about 700 calories, but I will be adding another boost to get the calories up to 1000-ish. Swallowing pain subsided a few days ago, so I am now able to drink normally, which is key, because hydration is far more critical than nutrition!

Neck burn was bad, now almost healed. Hair loss is only my beard (chin and neck). Olfactory works, but taste is completely borked, and will be for months. Oh well, it’s delicious vanilla gunk and bottled water for now.

Next milestone is a PET scan in December, then another in March. If both of those show no sign of recurrence, I’m probably ok as far as the cancer itself, but still have to get follow-up PET scans every year…forever.

AE0BQ has cancer

Posted on by AE0BQ

What is Oropharyngeal Cancer?

Oropharyngeal cancer, also known as tonsil cancer, is a disease in which abnormal cells with the potential to both grow locally and spread to other parts of the body are found in the tissue of the part of the throat (oropharynx). This includes the base of the tongue, the tonsils, the soft palate, and the walls of the pharynx. In my case, the soft palate and pharynx are not involved.

Testing and Diagnosis

A CT scan with contrast showed a tumor on the tonsil approximately 2.9 x 2.1 x 3.0 cm, a slightly smaller tumor on the base of tongue, and a partially cystic mass within the right level II region, approximately 3.6 x 2.9 x 3.2 cm in size, located at the anterior margin of the right sternocleidomastoid muscle. The mass was believed to be metastatic adenopathy.

Thus, the tentative diagnosis was Stage III if HPV+.

A fine needle aspiration with ultrasound guidance was performed on the lymphatic cyst, but the analysis was inconclusive due to insufficient cancerous cells in the fluid.

A surgical biopsy was performed on the base of tongue under general anesthesia. This time, the analysis confirmed it was HPV+ P16 cancer.

Finally, a PET-CT scan was performed to confirm the size and location of cancerous tissues, and to identify any potential remote metastases, of which none were seen.

PET scan slice showing “hot spots” at tonsil, base of tongue, and level II lymph node.

Positron emission tomography (PET) is a nuclear imaging technology that enables visualization of metabolic processes in the body. A radionucleide tracer, in this case fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) is injected, which the body metabolizes in the same way as normal glucose. When metabolized, the tracer molecules emit a positron which combines with electrons to produce an orthogonal pair of gamma rays, which are detected by a scanner ring. The gamma ray vector data is used to reconstruct a color-mapped 3D image database corresponding to glucose uptake levels. The image shown above is a single 3D “slice” through the suspected cancer area in the head and neck. Glucose “hot spots” are indicated by yellow color mapping. Hot spots appearing in the suspected area indicate cancerous tissue. Areas of the body which are normally high-glycolic such as the brain, eyes, kidneys, and urinary tract also appear as hot spots, but can be safely ignored in this case.


My treatment plan consists of a single weekly chemotherapy session plus radiotherapy sessions 5 days per week. The treatment runs for 7 weeks total.

Adjuvant therapies include speech and language pathologist sessions to exercise swallowing muscles, and physical therapy sessions to stretch neck muscles and tissues to reduce stiffness and improve lymph drainage and circulation.

The chemotherapy regimen consists of Cisplatin and other agents delivered intravenously by infusion pump. Other agents include Potassium Chloride, Magnesium Sulfate, and Sodium Chloride IV 0.9 % for electrolytes and hydration, corticosteroids Dexamethasone and Methylprednisolone to prevent inflammation, Diphenhydramine to suppress allergic reaction, and Fosaprepitant and Palonosetront to prevent vomiting. The weekly chemo infusion takes about 6 hours.

Radiotherapy sessions are delivered on a Varian TrueBeam Linear Accelerator. This sophisticated IMRT (Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy) machine produces a dynamically modulated and collimated ionizing radiation beam while moving circumferentially around the patient. A tungsten multi-leaf collimator shapes the beam cross section to produce a precisely targeted high radiation dose in the cancerous tissue while minimizing the radiation dose delivered to surrounding healthy tissues. An integrated CT scanner precisely determines patient position and orientation to achieve repeatable sub-millimeter positional accuracy.

Each daily radiotherapy session is painless and takes less than 15 minutes. The overall cumulative dose is 70Gy for the 3 targeted cancerous areas, 40Gy for the overall neck, with minimized dose on salivary glands, thyroid, etc. The daily fractionated dose is about 2Gy.

Expected Side Effects of Treatment

  • Permanent:
    • xerostomia (loss of overall salivary output)
    • loss of right submandibular salivary gland
    • loss of lower right molars requiring partial denture
  • Temporary:
    • oral mucositis (inflamed mucous membranes)
    • changes in smell and taste (can be permanent)
    • intense pain in high dose irradiated areas, increasing from treatment start, subsiding 2-3 weeks post-treatment
    • intense referred pain in right ear (tympanic nerve bundle overload), lasting from pre-treatment until approximately 2 weeks post-treatment


  • Amlodipine – blood pressure (unrelated to cancer)
  • Tylenol 500mg – pain management
  • Oxycodone 5mg – pain management
  • Fentanyl patch – pain management

Follow-up and Prognosis

Post treatment follow up PET scans will be done at 1 month to confirm reduction of cancerous tissue, 3 months to assess healing and/or recurrence, 6 months to assess healing and/or recurrence. PET scan will be performed 2x yearly until disease free for 5 years.

5-year overall survival rate is 90%.


Posted on by AE0BQ

Satellite Network Of Ground Stations

SatNOGS is an open source satellite ground station and network, optimized for modularity, built from readily available and affordable tools and resources.

In a nutshell, SatNOGS is a network of satellite ground stations focused on observing and receiving the signal of satellites, particularly low earth orbit (LEO) cubesats.

SatNOGS explanation.png

SatNOGS is able to retrieve status and telemetry signals, data from payloads (experiments) from LEO satellites operating on the UHF and VHF bands, including the International Space Station.

SatNOGS stations are built using readily available materials, basic tools and machinery such as 3D printers and benchtop CNC, as provided by average hackerspaces. The cost to build a station from scratch and connect to the network runs about USD $300 to $500, but existing ham radio ground stations can also be adapted to reduce the hardware cost.

The mechanical rotator, diplexer, low noise amplifier, antennas and printed circuit board designs are all published under open source license, and full technical documentation and source code is made available publicly at no cost.

man sitting on mountaintop operating a satnogs station with a laptop computer

SatNOGS started in mid-April 2014, during the NASA Space App Challenge hackathon in based in Athens, Greece. The SatNOGS team won first place in the very first Hackaday Prize, which was so popular that they started the Libre Space Foundation.

Signals Everywhere!

Posted on by AE0BQ

KR0SIV Harold Giddings produces a lot of interesting content about SDR and other ham radio topics, check it out.




Dell G3 3779 17″ with Ubuntu 18.04 LTS

Posted on by AE0BQ

Recently got a refurb Dell G3 3779 17″ with i7-8750H 6 core, Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti GPU, and 32GB RAM. Perf is awesome, passmark is over 12000. Running Ubuntu 18.04.2 but had trouble with jerky performance and stability issues, until I found this page:


  • install Ubuntu 18.04.2 from .iso
  • sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade
  • sudo nano /etc/default/grub.d/Linux-Dell-Video.cfg:
    GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX=$(echo $GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX acpi_osi=Linux-Dell-Video)
  • sudo nano /etc/default/grub.d/Nvidia-DRM.cfg
    GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX=$(echo $GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX nvidia-drm.modeset=1)
  • sudo update-grub
  • sudo apt install r8168-dkms
  • sudo apt install nvidia-430
  • sudo dpkg -i tlp-sensible_1.1_all.deb
  • sudo dpkg -i modprobe-blacklist-psmouse_2_all.deb
  • apt install --install-recommends linux-generic-hwe-18.04 xserver-xorg-hwe-18.04
  • sudo reboot now

OMAP Blaze

Posted on by AE0BQ

I picked up three of these Blaze handheld development platforms at the recent hamfest, for about $3 each.

Texas Instruments created these back in 2010, to streamline application software development on their OMAP 4430 ARM Cortex A9-based system on a chip (SoC). The OMAP 4430 SoC was also used in the Pandaboard.

Blaze technical docs and firmware:

OMAP 4430 SoC



  • dual 3.7″ capacitive WVGA touchscreens
  • 3 multi-megapixel cameras
  • DLP pico projector
  • HDMI out
  • accelerometer
  • compass
  • light sensors
  • temperature sensor
  • barometric pressure sensor
  • proximity sensor
  • Wi-Fi
  • GPS
  • Bluetooth
  • FM receiver
  • microphone input
  • stereo speaker output
  • PCIe slot for 3G modem

License anniversary

Posted on by AE0BQ

My FCC Amateur Radio license was issued April 11, 2018. It’s been a good year.

I enjoy participating in my club’s regular activities, such as the Thursday night net, Saturday morning breakfast, and monthly meetings, as well as various special events, such as field day, monitoring local events, etc. I also enjoy being a VE – feels good to give something back to the community and the hobby.

samlex SEC-1235M

Posted on by AE0BQ

Picked up one of these at a recent hamfest. Didn’t have to pay shipping or sales tax, so I call that a bargain. Needed a slightly bigger PSU than the MFJ-4225MV, but still use that for chatting on local repeaters with the 25W QYT-8900D.

HF digital modes on IC-7300

Posted on by AE0BQ

As it turns out, you can connect a USB cable from a PC to an IC-7300, and run some free software, and instantly enjoy a bunch of HF digital modes. The IC-7300 appears to the PC as two separate USB devices – an audio interface, and the remote CI-V (CAT) serial interface, so no additional hardware is required. Pretty sweet!

So the two softwares are fldigi and WSJT-X.

WSJT-X software handles FT8, JT4, JT9, JT65, QRA64, ISCAT, MSK144, and WSPR, and Echo.

But, I haven’t tried out WSJT-X yet. I’m struggling to understand fldigi. Also there may be some IC-7300 settings that aren’t optimal as well. I can see the audio on the waterfall and oscilloscope displays, and the frequency and radio knob are synced, so both the USB interfaces are working and fldigi is configured correctly. I think the RX levels might not be optimal, because it decodes garbage. PTT works (radio transmits), but I don’t want to transmit until I know receive is working correctly and I have a better understanding of everything.

This link may help me understand the basics of fldigi: