Dec 08, 2010 - 4:27 pm
(Blaze Foley reference)
Today I visited Chemo Palace, where OncoMan resides along with his bevy of needle stabbers and chemo pushers. I was, for whatever reason, not worried. I honestly do not know why. There were moments of trepidation, to be sure, especially while waiting in the exam room, but nothing major like I've felt in the past.
I've tried to explain this to people in here, particularly in the CSN Chat Room. I don't know exactly why, but I'm going with the idea that I've been through quite a bit over the last five years such that I am ready for anything and, more important, I think, I know that worrying isn't going to make a damned bit of difference.
Still, again, the closer you get, the more intense it gets.
Honestly, I look at these experiences, these trips to the Chemo Palace, as lengthy periods of WAIT before receiving either good or bad news. Sort of like Christmas as a kid: you wait and you wait and you wait and you either get the latest video game or the awkwardly knitted sweater, or something like that.
The WAIT is the hard part, but surprisingly I got through this fairly rapidly. I arrived a few minutes early, because my wife called me from her location to suggest that I might want to get after it, even though I knew exactly how long it would take, barring complications like traffic, accidents, road work, that sort of thing.
Going to the counter to sign in, I was pleased that one of the young ladies recognized me, even though it has been eight months and she has seen probably thousands since last I passed through those doors, and she even smiled. I am sure they are glad to see the living, the survivors. Five years passing through those doors, and I'm still doing it.
Of course, she MAY have been laughing at my leather jacket and earring...that is a possibility. But she smiled, AND when the lady handling my stuff was fumbling, she took over and got me out of THAT line pronto. (Sigh!)
I found a place to sit and wasn't there long before my wife walked by on the way to somewhere or other. I shouted to her, but she didn't hear me, or needed to go really badly, or didn't recognize the stylish guy in the button-down shirt, knit sweater, and leather bomber jacket; make your own call, but people around me were smiling and shrugging, as in: "What can you do?"
I did not chase her, but bumped into her as I was headed to the lab for the blood work. She went out into the second lobby and I headed to the lab.
Turns out I am rather dehydrated, and it took a couple of 'sticks' to find veins that would pump that Virginia Tech maroon oil that the lab needs, that is, blood. She, the sticker, was apologetic, but it was really not her fault. I was clearly bone dry, and she did a great job of finding sources of at least minimal blood.
It turns out they have been taking samples for tumor markers from the beginning, but I never knew that until this time, when I finally asked what some of these acronyms mean. They, of course, check my white and red blood cell counts. And they check organ function, I guess liver and kidney specifically.
All of that is good news to me. I want to know ahead of time when my organs are failing. Maybe.
I left that room with a bunch of gauze on my right arm, along with that damned tape I do not look forward to removing. I DID talk to my fellow blood-letters, the ones on either side of me, and they talked back, and we had a jolly time.
I had no longer put the legendary 'sheet' into OncoMan's basket than his nurse grabbed it and asked if I was ready for a weigh in. Oh, hell yeah! Fast food service moves to the Chemo Palace! She weighed me in, and I had lost, I guess, 18 pounds since April, when I last saw these wonderful folks.
This raised concern later with OncoMan, but the truth is, it was just about that time (April) that I lost my last tube and began the journey to eating.
In any event, my wife and I were immediately ushered into an exam room, and you tend to be worried when you get the five-star treatment, but, inexplicably, I still wasn't worried. My wife was. I could tell. She tends to talk about other stuff. Today, it was about a party at work, and how the management had to serve the staff, and how funny that was.
I understand, I do. I suppose she is trying to misdirect one of us away from what might be a very bad diagnosis. So I listen and respond appropriately, asking who this is, who that is, that sort of thing.
The nurse gives me a thumbs up on all vital counts: I am probably healthier in that regard than most people in the country, and it is largely due, to be honest, to cancer reducing my weight and dropping my blood pressure. Not that I recommend that as the optimal choice for regaining your health.
And then OncoMan's PA (Physician's Assistant) knocked on the door (what? why?) so I shouted, "Wait, we're getting dressed!", but she came in anyway, so it is rather fortunate that my wife and I decided NOT to use the exam table for our personal, sea level version of the five-mile club, or whatever they call it. I really just wanted to see what they would do when they knocked and got that response. It was not good. Let that be a warning to you, unless you are exhibitionist by nature.
PA proceeded to ask me about my health in general, as she always does, and I went into my new theory about micro-aspiration (in case my scan was not so good :)), and she said would take that up with OncoMan, and she wondered where I had been and I sheepishly but brutally honestly replied, "I sort of gave it up for awhile there."
To make a long story even longer (and all of this time, although this has no significance, everyone whose hand I shake, or whose skin I touch, remarks on how cold my hands are), OncoMan comes in. I AM on the five-star plan!
I ask him immediately: "Am I going to die?" (Why beat around the bush?) He chuckles (a good sign, a very good sign) and says, "No, your CT scan looks really good."
So all of my micro-aspiration stuff was unnecessary, and even cost me extra time with OncoMan, as he now was considering a new swallow test. I advised him that I was merely protecting myself against a bad scan result, and that the cough was not an annoyance, and that I had had probably five swallow tests in the past and they all came out good.
Here is what my copy of the report says: "Stable exam No evidence of malignancy in the chest."
As he reminded me, five years now for head/neck; a month away from three years for lung...Neither the wife nor I had realized that, since the surgery for lung was in Jan of 08... but yes, 2010 is ending, and less than two months from now, I will be three years out of lung cancer too.
Another six months.