Posted by: Ken Wheatley | January 30, 2008

Live from the treatment center

We’re back for the 2nd week of treatment. Today is “only” one drug – Gemzar. But this is the drug that makes your arm hurt. Last week her right arm started to really ache just before the bag was finished. So she’s a little concerned about what today will be like. Nothing like imprinting pain to jack up the tension. Her blood pressure, normally very low, is the highest it’s ever been. Because of all the blood tests and exams requiring contrast injections she has to alternate arms. Sometimes we lose track. But the black and blue bruise is a quick reminder of which arm to avoid.

There’s a woman three chairs over who is in bad shape. A lot of painful coughing. More like a lung separating hack. Not sure what she’s got of course, but that’s the downside of being treated with other people in the room. You can help but wonder if that’s your fate. Where are they in respect to you? Fortunately her session is wrapping up, so we’ll be alone in a few minutes.

Sheila’s brought her Apple laptop (beautiful in black) and is watching a movie, “Prime Suspect” with Helen Mirren. It’s some sort of detective series that she likes. She’s sitting the the flower chair today. Last week it was the green vinyl chair.

The room has one rectangular window, but the blinds are closed. I spoke in my last post about Place Matters. And it does. There’s nothing uplifting about being in the room. Like the exam rooms, it’s small and utilitarian. There are some faded pictures of far away places, and one guy on a bucking bronco from some former patients, but that’s about it.

She also has the purple blanket that her childhood friend, Monica, gave her on Sunday. It matches her sweater. 🙂 Purple just happens to be her favorite color.

We skip a week next week so that her red blood cells can recover. The lab tests show that they’ve already dropped since last week, but at least they’re still within normal range.

Susan, one of the nurses, was tickled with our needle ritual – where I kiss all over Sheila’s face to distract her from the needle punctures. She thinks it so cool that after all these years (4) that we’re still so affectionate with each other.  To us, it’s just another day together. We’re both lucky to have found someone who loves to be affectionate.

Dr. K didn’t provide any additional information about the cancer. He feels that knowing the subtype is not necessary or important – it doesn’t impact the treatment. He’s missing the point of the question. But we definitely get the sense that there’s a limit to the number of questions we can ask, even though his mouth is saying, “any more questions?” Sheila and I haven’t talked much about it, but I suspect that she’s going to want to change to UCSD after this 6 weeks are up. We forgot to ask him about what trials he’s running, but part of that is the reluctance to ratchet things up.

Well, someone new showed up for his treatment and he’s bantering with the nurses, in a rather matter-of-fact way, about the projected month and time of his death. Nice….. fortunately, Sheila has her headset on for the movie and can’t hear what he’s talking about.


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