Posted by: Ken Wheatley | January 29, 2008

5 weeks

That’s what my life has been reduced to. That’s when we’ll get the results of whether this round of chemo has actually done anything or not for Sheila. That milestone was sort of clear when we started the chemo procedure last Wednesday at Scripps, but it became immediate and crystal clear today after getting the second opinion from Dr. B at UCSD.

The medical oncologist at Scripps, Dr. K, was more laid-back about it all. A function I’m sure of his long tenure dealing with hundreds or thousands of patients. Sheila is just another in a long, endless line of cancer patients. Not that he’s impersonal per se. He’s just…detached….

We found out volumes more today from Dr. B in 30 minutes than we have in three weeks of endless doctor appointments. Not that it was good news, but she certainly opened more avenues, or discussed more things than Dr. K ever has.

One of the key points overlooked in our conversations at Scripps is clinical trials. That was never mentioned. Much like them not telling us about their Integrative Medicine Center. But Dr. B at UCSD launched into a detailed monologue about all the trials, drugs, and statistics you’d ever care to hear. While a bit overwhelming – my eyes darted between Dr. B’s mouth (she’s Russian, so I had to watch closely to make sure I could understand the medical terms) and Sheila’s attempts to capture the salient points in her notepad – it was hopeful at the same time. I’d mouth the drug spellings silently while she wrote, trying to commit it all to memory.

Throughout it all it became apparent that the 6 week milestone will either be quite joyous, or profoundly depressing. No middle ground actually. The two drugs that Sheila is being administered are supposed to be the ones that will give her the best chance out of the possible combinations of drugs that are available. We moved the treatment date up a week because of the pain that Sheila was in, even though we were hoping to get the second opinion before starting. And already one door has closed with that decision.

There’s a trial at UCSD that Sheila could have participated in, but because she’s already started chemo she’s not eligible any longer. It was only for people who hadn’t started yet. We were originally scheduled to start chemo this Wednesday. Hopefully that’s not a decision we’ll come to regret. Not too likely at this point. She was in pain and I don’t think she could have waited another week, quite frankly.

So now I’m really afraid of time. Actually fear isn’t the right word. It’s anger and anxiety mixed. So whatever that is. I want time to slow down. Wayyyyy down… I resent looking at the calendar with trepidation. There’s a big part of me that doesn’t want to know. Mainly because she’s outwardly fine right now. She’s eating normally (back to chocolate even), laughing, back to work, making love, still chasing me down the hall while she giggles loudly. And she looks fine. That’s the “worse.”

It’s tough reconciling that she has cancerous tumors sprinkled throughout her chest, spine and above her stomach, but yet she’s walking, talking, and laughing. Don’t get me wrong. I’m absolutely thrilled that she’s happy and painfree. (She just got another piece of chocolate while she watches a movie.) But yet when the doctors keep reinforcing the message – as if we could remotely forget – that what she has is incurable, inoperable, and life-threatening it doesn’t compute.

So I want to freeze time. This moment. Our life. I don’t want to sit with her in another sterile exam room and get bad news in 5 weeks. Even if we have options. Yes, we’ll pursue them, but with every round of bad news it feels like another door has closed and there aren’t an endless number of doors. Yet, I want endless doors. And endless time with her.

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