Wednesday, 5 October 2011
Kleenex and killer sex
The day starts at 8:30 a.m. with the same extensive set of questions I’ve answered on at least five other occasions. Followed by the same neurological tests I’ve done fifty times. "Touch your finger to your nose, then touch my finger." A half hour later, the medical oncologist bristles into the room, begins her spiel and doesn’t brook interruption. I do manage to ask, “Will I lose my hair?” What’s left of it, anyway, I think - but I don't say that aloud. She doesn’t hesitate. “Yes.”
Afterwards, I say to the nurse, “Well, she’s certainly…um…efficient, isn’t she?”
“She’s professional,” the nurse replies, “and if I needed a medical oncologist, I’d want her. If something isn’t working, she’ll call a halt.” Good to know.
The nurse hands over a 3 inch thick folder of reading material on all aspects of medication, cancer and chemotherapy. Oh good. Cancer AND homework.
Ilga has been with me, taking notes. Her car has been parked over the two hour limit, and when she ventures out in the pouring rain and wind to correct the situation, she takes a header and sprains her wrist. I urge her to go home and pack some ice on her wrist. I assure her I can make it through the rest on my own. Instead, we go for coffee and doughnuts in the cafeteria. Ilga can barely move her fingers and finally admits to needing ice and bandages. She heads home and I return to the waiting room.
Next it’s the social worker and paperwork to appeal my prescription deductible and get me on a special Cancer Pharmacare plan. Chemo and hospital tests and procedures are paid for but prescriptions can range from $700 to $8000 a month. Have mercy. Next year, I won’t qualify for coverage. What then?
I have an hour to kill before I see the radiation oncologist so I shop. I buy winter weight leggings and leg warmers. The leg warmers make me grin. So very, very eighties. “Flashdance,” anyone? To hell with it. I love leg warmers. Leg warmers are cozy and a skinny-ankled girl’s best friends. Cheery to be in a mall and find a sale, but short-lived. I plod back to the hospital.
Dr. Bowes arrives on time and Ilga finds us a few minutes later. Her hurt wrist is now sporting a navy blue brace. Finally, we get some clarification – all the doctors agree that chemo comes first.They don't really know much about this type of cancer. It's pretty much a mystery to them, but they intend to employ the medical equivalent of weapons of mass destruction.
Great poisonous toxic whacks of chemo. If I so much as blow my nose, the Kleenex will have to be double-bagged, labeled and disposed of by the hospital. I will be oozing toxins from my pores. I could kill someone just by having sex with them. The only good news is that each round is three days, with 21 days off in-between, so my body – which will by then have zero immunity to anything – can recover. Then we’ll do it again and see if the tumour is shrinking – and if I can physically stand the treatments. If it's working, the prize is two more months of the same. Four months total. And then radiation on my brain. If the chemo doesn’t work – maybe surgery and radiation. Hello 2012. Maybe I'll get to see you by Springtime.
The prognosis? A next-to-nothing chance of being cured. This little Zebra is moving at light speed. The treatment is as aggressive as the cancer though, so there’s a better chance at remission…
Well, that’s what I told him…the nice oncologist who looks straight in my eyes and tells the truth without somehow crushing my hope:
“Five more years,” I said when I met him, “I want five more years.”