Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Choose Your Own Adventure

It's Wednesday afternoon, August 17 - chemo day. Your name is Ann, and you have left work early for the drip, grumbling under your breath about all the things left you want to finish. You are feeling frustrated that cancer is interfering in your life (and the life of your coworkers) to this degree. You leave campus, and the sun warms your skin as you pull your keys from your purse and push the button on the keyfob to unlock your car. At the short beep, you get in your Maserati, rev the engine, and tune your radio to Dennis Miller.

The drive to the oncologist's office is easy, with few cars in your way on the road.  The parking gods smile as you get a spot right in front of the building.

You sign in and plump yourself down on one of the formerly padded chairs. After a surprisingly short wait, your name is called. As you walk to the line of shabby barcoloungers, all of the chemo nurses greet you warmly, but only one will be yours.

Select Maureen to be Your Nurse
Select Joe to be your Nurse

Maureen draws blood and gives the vial to Heather, the assistant. After a few minutes, Heather brings back the blood results, and you are surprised to see that her whites are in the normal range. Unfortunately, your reds have dropped even lower and her hemoglobin is 8.9.

Do you.

Request a Transfusion
Hope Nobody Notices

Heather comes back with a transfusion appointment, and you realize that this is once again going to take you from work for half a day.  You wonder for the thousandth time why these tests and treatments can never be conducted on a weekend.

You shrug and

Play Words with Friends
Read a Magazine

Maureen comes back and hooks you up to the IV pole.  You are getting only Navelbine today, so she flushes your port and starts the pre-meds.  As the decadron drips in, your energy level perks up and you become hungry.

Do you:

Eat a stale donut?
Plan to go out to dinner later.

Joe draws blood and gives the vial to Betsy, the assistant.  The blood results come back in a few minutes, and you are pleasantly surprised to find that your whites are back to normal, despite her lowered leukine dose, and her reds are also in the acceptable ranges.  Whew, no problems here.  Joe asks how your back pain is doing.

Do you:

Complain that its no better
Keep the pain silently to yourself?

Joe looks at you in sympathy and explains that it is hard to get better when you are in pain.  He suggests getting a pain med adjustment from the doctor.  As he does this, he starts your drip, with the IV pre-meds first.

Do you Wait for your prescription?
Do you Talk to a neighbor?

Joe says, "Good, I'm glad you are doing better" and hangs your bag of decadron and Aloxi.

Do you Regret being quiet?
Do you Ask for ativan instead?

Suddenly, the front office nurse comes back and says, "Doctor will see you now." You grab your chemo pole and wheel off to his office, airline tubing trailing behind. You are beginning to get nervous, knowing today is the day you are going to hear the big news about whether chemo is working. You nervously flips through CURE magazine, wondering if that word could ever apply to you.

The doctor comes in, sits down, loads his computer program and says:

Choose C if you want to hear good news.
Choose D if you want to hear mediocre news.
Choose E if you want to hear bad news.

"Good news! The chemo seems to be working. We can find no trace of tumors in your liver.  That's very good news. I'm going to refer you for a surgical consult.

Find out what you'll do next.

"Your tumors have not shown signs of shrinkage, but neither are they progressing.  We can try another chemo and see if we can get a response, and then perhaps still refer you for surgery.

Find out what you'll do next.

"I'm sorry, your tumors have grown, and not only that, but you have several more.  This chemo clearly isn't working, so we are going to try another."

Find out what you'll do next.

You'll deal with it. Because, that is what we cancer patients do.



  1. Ann, I hope tomorrow isn't QUITE like this, but I look forward to hearing the results. Dad gets his scan results tomorrow also -- and it's my youngest's 12th birthday tomorrow. Let's hope for all wonderful news, especially given that Dad just discovered yesterday that he's only been taking HALF the dosage of Xeloda for the last four rounds of Chemo. :(

  2. I too hope that this is NOT what you go thru today.
    But I soooo love your sense of humor.
    Even if its about such a bad thing.
    You inspire me
    I am hopefully home for good now.
    I missed my house ,,,I missed my animals.
    I miss my "normal" life

  3. What a great post! Inventive! I sincerely hope that chemo goes well and the news is good.

  4. I am picking Joe, good blood counts, a little extra pain medication and option C - GOOD NEWS! Best of luck tomorrow.



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