January 22, 2019. This was another very long day.
PART ONE. Steve and I arrived for my blood draw at 11:30a, an hour and a half before my 1p appointment with Dr. Rugo. We pass a line of about 4 or 5 people on my way to signing in. The waiting room; a very small room with 3 chairs cramped in along one wall, 4 more on an adjoining wall, one chair against a short wall and another lone chair tucked behind a corner; has 7 more people waiting, 5 who are probably patients. Steve and I spy two empty seats. He takes the one on the short wall and I take the one just behind him tucked into the corner. We wait for over an hour because there are only two phlebotomists. My name is finally called just 15 minutes before I’m scheduled to see Rugo.
We head on up to the 2nd floor and check-in. The receptionist lets me know they will make me a wristband for my infusion. I might not have mentioned it before, but the wristband is scanned when I sit in the infusion chair and then each time Taxol and Carboplatin are administered. When the wristband is placed around my wrist, the young man is very careful not to make it too tight. It is so loose, I can actually slide it up and wear it as an armband. That gives us a good chuckle.
They take my vitals, and then we wait. An hour later, they finally call my name, “Eberhand”. I say, “Eberhard.” The nurse apologizes as we walk through the doorway. I say don’t worry about it. I motion my thumb back at Steve and say, “When we met I thought he said his name was Everhard. And I thought he was just flirting, so I asked him if this was a joke.” That got a burst laughter from everyone who was within hearing distance.
In the examining room, I change into an open-in-the-front gown. About 15 minutes later, Dr. Rugo’s assistant Robin (a different Robin than my chemo teach nurse) comes in. I’m snarky right away and ask if we can just count on Rugo being 2 hours behind schedule every time. I couldn’t help myself. She apologizes, of course, and says they are working on it. I apologize for the snide remark, and again she reiterates they are working on it. She then asks a bunch of questions about any side effects I’ve experienced, looks at my blood work results (which are good), appetite, diet, energy level, sleeping patterns—all the usual touch points which she keys into my chart as we talk. She asks if I have a port. I say no, that I’ve been avoiding it until it’s confirmed the chemo is working, but I add that I think that it is working. She says that either way, working or not, I’m going to have to continue chemo even if they change the cocktail. I tell her no. That this chemo is it, that this is more than I ever thought I would do again. We drop the subject. Next, she gives my tumor sites a thorough exam and then measures each one. She compares her measurements to Rugo’s two weeks ago and with the ultrasound last Tuesday. My heart sinks a little when she says they look the same. It’s then that she lets me know that Dr. Rugo will be in soon, and she will remeasure.
About 15 minutes later, Rugo arrives. Apologizes for the long wait. I tell her no worries. She reviews my chart, and Robin’s notes. She immediately expresses her concern about me telling Robin that I wanted to stop the chemo. I tell her that isn’t what I said. I will only stop if the chemo isn’t working after three infusions. I then add, “I think it’s working.” Rugo’s pleased to hear this and realizes I’m on board, so we continue with her question and answer routine, and she reviews my blood work. All is looking good. Sodium is a little low, but EVERYTHING LOOKS REALLY GOOD.
Drum roll, if you please. It’s time for her to measure my tumors, and I’m feeling a little anxious. Steve, too. She proceeds and announces (in centimeters) …
Tumor 2 weeks ago Today
Chest Wall 3 x 2 2 x 1.5
Axillary node 2 x 1.5 1 x .8
We are all more than thrilled with this result. The chemo appears to be working, better than we hoped.
I think it’s more than the chemo that is shrinking these tumors. It angels. Angels on earth. People who believe I will be cancer free again. People who have me in their prayers. People who have me in their hearts. People who encourage me and believe. Believe, like me, in only one outcome. Those angels are you.
Failure is impossible. —Susan B. Anthony