January 26, 2023. I managed the scholarship program at Mendocino College for 10 years. The first two years were in Student Services, but in 2010 I transferred to the College’s Foundation and brought the program with me since the Foundation funded the majority of the scholarships we awarded. The Foundation also brought me into the world of fundraising, and my Executive Director Katie was a master. One of our favorites to help support was the Nursing Program. The classes for the 2-year program were small, typically 18-20 students. The hours they put in were like having two full-time jobs with homework. They slept very little, many had little or no money relying on friends, family, student loans and scholarships to survive. The Foundation helped provide them with shoes, funds to cover their NCLEX licensing fees, and lots of named scholarships. Given the world I’ve been immersed in the past 4+ years, I now see it was almost inevitable that some day one of my caregivers would be a Mendocino College nursing student. Deeann Howard, a single mother of two. Not only was she at the top of her class, she was sweet spirited and hard working. She was genuinely grateful for all the support she received and never hesitated to say so. To have her as one of my first oncology nurses as I begin this clinical trial was almost magical, and it made my long first day a little less scary and a lot sweeter.

Me and Oncology Nurse Perry

I’ve had two treatments so far. The first one on Wednesday the 18th was a long one, starting with a labs at 730a, (which were great) then a visit with NP Gretchen and clinical trial coordinator Lindy. Next I went to the 3rd floor infusion at 800a for a port draw (vials and vials of blood for the study) followed by premeds both oral and infused. Around 10a or so the Magrolimab was administered over the course of about 3 hours, then an hour of observation. Next more premeds (oral and infused) ahead of the 3-hour Sacazutimab (which everyone calls Sazzy) infusion, followed by another hour of observation. I think we left around 8p and pulled into our driveway about 11 than night. During the course of my treatment I was cared for by a delightful oncology nurse named Perry, then my angel Deeann, and the last hour or so it was sweet Olivia. Steve and I were beyond exhausted, but oh so happy to be home.

Good news. The side effects have been minimal so far. A bit of fatigue, mild nausea, and a bit weak.

My second treatment this past Wednesday was set to be another long one. This time at the infusion center on the 6th floor, following pretty much the same routine. Again my labs were great. The Sazzy has not adversely affected my immune system and my white blood cell count has remained well within the normal range. So much so that rather than having a 3-hour Sazzy infusion, Dr. Rugo persuaded the pharmacy to drop it to 1-hour. Shortening my long day considerably. Steve and I were home just after 7p!

This coming Wednesday I’ll only be getting the Magrolimab, so it will be a 4-hour day. I’m really encouraged at this point and feeling a little more confident I made the right decision.

The strangest thing happened as we headed for home Wednesday. I wanted to take a closer look at a photo I’d taken that day, and when I selected it from my library a smiling photo of Mom popped up instead. Even stranger still, when I tried to swipe to the next photo, her photo wouldn’t go away. I couldn’t get it to leave the screen of my phone at all. I finally just kissed her photo, closed the app and started over. I think my sweet Mom wanted me to know she was there and, she too is happy that this is the path I chose.

I’m always with you, even when I’m not. –Joanne Richter (Mom)