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.”



Roberta said...

Cancer and Homework part. Funny.

The rest not so much. I am glad you have an oncologist who can look you in the eye. A rare bird indeed. Many specialists don't seem to know how to do that. I don't think they teach that in medical school.

You live in Canada correct? You don't say why you won't qualify for the pharmacy coverage next year.

Howpublic said...

I've rearranged my pension for next year so that I make a bit more - and it will put me just over the income limit for coverage. However - My Oncologist says the anti-nausea drugs are not too expensive. Well, one is - but I only require 3 pills per treatment cycle. Whew!

When I'm 65 - (another year & a half) I'll be covered by regular pharmacare. And yes - I do live in Canada. If not, so far I would owe the medical system 8 lifetimes of income to pay for all the tests and treatment so far.

Pat Barber said...

Cancer and homework - loved it! But actually, I'm glad you have homework. Your medical team is talking to you, telling you things Linda, and for that I am very grateful! Mine did not, so much. But I don't think it was their fault. I think I dug my own grave with them (whoops, bad pun, really really bad pun, but still kinda funny in its own macabre way!), when they found out about the years and years of research I had done: I think that sent them a message that I knew everything there was to know. Yeah, my bad. Also my bad that I was more intent on directing the show, than asking questions and learning. Oh well, live and learn - and I digress! All this to say that I am grateful your medical team is talking to you, teaching you all they know, sharing with you and involving you in the process. Yep, even that "just the facts, Ma'am" oncologist, believe it or not! :)

Oh, one more thing: listen and learn, by all means, but always remember that no one knows your body better than you. If they have not already, at some point your medical team will tell you something about your cancer that will just not "ring true" for you. When it happens, you listen to your instincts good, OK? Remember, there's a reason they call it medical "practice"! :)

Pat Barber said...

BTW - Forgot to say how much I LOVE the title for this post! :]

Howpublic said...

Pat...I shoot myself in the foot too. I realized (FINALLY) when I was giving medical history to the radiation oncologist's nurse - that I self-diagnose EVERYTHING, out loud.
The problem is, I sound very sane and plausible. If I had not made the symptom of constant headache sound so minor to my GP, she might have suspected something serious three appointments earlier.
I've learned NOT to mention much about the internet to Doctors (although I'm guilty of research).
My attitude is: I'm the coach, and they are my team. GO team. I think that putting some faith in them has better results than second-guessing. But don't worry. I'll speak up when I need to...
Thanks for the very thoughtful comment, Pat.