The Oncologist

We received an eMail from  our Oncologist”s assistant, Shahnaz, that we should come in ad see Dr. Hedley on Wednesday, the day before our chemo. He needs to see the blood results and discuss us taking Neulasta, a drug designed to boost the white blood cell count. It appears to be standard release in the breast cancer clinics. That is as long as you can afford the $2,800 per month price tag. This drug is not covered by our delightful universal health care system. The cost is covered by Janet’s rivate health care plan courtesy of Ogilvy & Mather.

I did the required blood work on Wednesday morning. Went to the Art Therapy session, home for a bite, the to see the ever delightful Dr. Hedley. Have I mentioned how incredibly kind and gentle this man is? Well, that has not changed from our last visit. We discussed the benefits of Neulasta, and the inevitable side effects. My chemo starts on Thursday, I get disconnected from the baby bottle on Saturday. Neulasta is set for Monday. Would I care to self-administer? Think not! I will let Shahnaz do the honours.

The CEA blood results were positive in that the numbers are declining. Dr. Hedley did not make a fuss about them. I think we need a couple more counts to determine the trend. Two counts create an indicator. Four will start creating a trend of sorts.

My white blood cell count is low. We went from 0.8, to 3.9, back to 0.8, up to 6.7, down to 0.8. The last count from Wednesday morning showed a dramatic nothingness. Up to 0.9. Neulasta it is then. The good doctor says we cannot afford to iss these weeks.

I cannot pretend I understand what these number represent. All I know is that my chart has little asterisks whenever a number is too high or too low. I cannot understand why a number would  drop from 6.7 to 0.8 in one week. and no one appears to have an explanation. There appears o be lot of, this is just the way it is. I am as accepting as the next guy, but it would be nice to know.

I have been told to rest a lot. But that has not helped. I wrote an entry a while ago about the voice as a barometer. That has not changed My voice fluctuates with the state of my health. It is almost a whisper at the moment and has been for over a week. It made a comeback after the visit with Dr. Hedley which shows that the voice is affected by physical and psychological impulses. It went back to a whisper on Thursday in honour of chemo day.

Chemo Day

I was delighted that my appointment was for 8:30 in the morning. A couple of hours on the chair, home, hopefully before noon, great way to start the day. Better home around noon that at 7PM.

What a disaster. we got there at 8:30 and had to wait for them to get in touch with Dr. Hedley to make sure we could go ahead with he treatments. His office had not updated the files. They are all so over worked, it is not funny. We had waited an hour when Janet went to investigate. She located Shahnaz who works in the breast clinic on Thursdays. The clinic is located right next door to the Chemo Daycare. This was a no brainer. Shahnaz call it in.

My drugs had not been prepared, since they were not expecting me to get treated. We waited another half hour and I went in to investigate. They explained that they are waiting for the pharmacy but do not have a set time. I was pretty wasted by 10:30 and went to investigate again. The people at the front desk gave me a very hard time. Interrupting me. asking me why I was asking so often. They decided to have the nurses all me in to get rid of me. I refused to go and sit in the chair inside. What is the difference between waiting outside or inside if they do not know how long the wait is?

They gave me a pager and Janet and I decided to get get a bite. I had a chicken salad sandwich on brown with all the trimmings. That and a bottle of water, and I was back in shape. The pager went off almost as soon as I had finished my scrumptious meal.

We wnet in as instructed and made our way to our station. A very young nurse, as it turn out 23 years old would look after us. She said later that she thought I would be trouble. The best thing that happened is that one of the nurses with whom I get along particularly well came by and we joked around for a while. That helped ease any notions that I would be trouble.

This is a great department. Once you go through the doors to the clinic itself. The staff at the front desk have issues. They are in the wrong job. We appear to be in their way, and they are rarely prepared to help out.

We were finally out of there by 1:30. Ridiculous I say. Had a bite to eat, and straight to bed for a couple of hours of sleep.

The nurses in the Daycare do a lot of cross checking before giving you drugs. They check your tag, cross referencing your hospital number, last and first names, and finally ask your date of birth. The do this every time they connect you to a drug. They had misplaced my 5FU drug. This is the one in the baby bottle that I get to take home with me. They found it, but all the cross referencing prevents them from giving it to the wrong person.

Not much more to say about this. Looking forward to the Neulasta. Could use the energy boost.

Thank you for reading.

No chemo last week. I now have the pleasure f an extended good week. This makes up for the days H1N1 stole from me.

I went to the blood clinic as usual last Wednesday after the Art Therapy session. Devin had to be at work by 3:00. We decided to give the clinic a try. We wold leave if they were too busy. The process from parking the car, giving blood, and getting back to the car was 20 minutes. This included a chat with the lovely nurse who, it turns out, has breast cancer. We had a long conversation. Very cool.

She left the pin and tubes in my Porta-Cath, just like the previous time. This is truly the best way to give blood.

I picked up Janet at her office the next day and we made our way to the PMH Chem Daycare. As lovely a name for this activity as any. We asked whether there would be a delay or not. Time enough for us to get a cup of something and do whatever else. The gentleman behind the counter let us know that we had about an hour because my drugs were not ready yet.

We went to Starbucks and had coffee (Janet), and tea (me). Took our time, talked and had a great rest. Finally made our way back. A nurse was waiting for us. Turns out my blood cell counts were too low for chemo. More specifically, my white cell count was low. Something to do with my Neutrophil count being too low. No one seemed particularly alarmed in any way. Not a big deal. Happens all the time. Nothing to be done but wait for the count to go back up. Could happen any time. I have been given a reprieve until next week, which is this week since I am writing this on Monday morning.

The chemo schedule had to be changed since we are now out a week. My last session will take place on December 23. Merry Christmas.

The complications that arise from this move are interesting. For starters, I have to take these pills an hour before going in to get the chemo. It really is not a big deal. The pills are tiny. There are seven of them. The pharmacy releases the pills the week of the chemo. I cannot purchase all the pills I need for the remaining chemo sessions. I guess they feel I might overdose on them or something. I have now taken the pills that were due for this session, so we have to get a new prescription.

Next week is going to be a busy week. Seeing the oncologist, and the surgeon, and getting a CT-Scan done to review the State of the Union. The surgeon will probably give the go-ahead for the Avastin treatment. I have to read up on its side effects.

My brother is coming for a visit this Thursday. My sister is coming for the day on Sunday. All good. Looking forward to seeing my brother. He gets to see the baby bottle. I am looking forward to the visits. I think it will help cope with the treatment. I had very few issues last time, mostly tired. But having my family here will help. Specially if Fetneh bakes me a banana cream pie!

I am keeping busy. Driving a lot more. The weekend was very tiring. I don’t think I ate enough, in fact I know I did not. We went to Ginger’s to look at showers fixtures. All the showers we saw have these huge round plates that cover the wall and hold the spigot that turns the water on and off. The ones that have a small discreet plate, done tastefully and with respect to the rest of the room are in the $7000 price range. You read right. Don’t get me wrong, I love a shower as much as the next person, but $7,000 for a shower fixture?

We next went to Elte to look at furniture. Janet wants to ge rid of all our furniture and start over. Elte is huge. They have carpets and furniture. No appliances or anything. They are way too good to carry that sort of pedestrian stuff. We saw a couple of pieces we like. The first was perfect for our living room until you sat on the couch. It has to be the most uncomfortable $11,000 couch on the world. Almost as if they went out of their way to make it so. Not that we are about to shell that sort of money for a couch, but why so uncomfortable?

Cut a long story short, we got home around four, and I was pretty much done in. Took a nap. Made some rice for dinner. Sharon Singer came by for a visit. We had a great time. One thing you have to understand about me is that I talk very fast. I loved watching Sharon as she cocked her head to one side and concentrated really hard to understand what I was saying. My brother says I would have to repeat everything when I was a child because no one understood a word I was saying. So little has changed.

I am getting out more these days. Driving. I am going to see Steve this morning to fix three computers. We cannot afford to be without them, so they have to be fixed and returned right away. He is good about that sort of stuff. Looking forward to seeing him again. This is the best. Life returning to some semblance of normalcy. May sound boring to you, but it is heaven in my books.

Margaret Wente wrote a charming article in the Globe & Mail on the subject of breast cancer. More to the point, on fighting, conquering and surviving cancer. I have already made my opinions known on this topic, and this article only confirms me in what I wrote.

Breast Cancer is a very physical presentation of cancer. It is vivid and devastating. Most other forms, including mine are well hidden. I got dressed in regular (as opposed to my sick) clothes on the weekend. Nobody can really tell that there is anything wrong, let alone how dire things are.

Raising money for Breast Cancer by whatever means, only increases the attention that is paid to all forms of cancer. While reading on this, it appears to me that the “cures” for want of a better word, for cancer are many and not one. The cures will apply to all sorts of cancer and will not be limited to only one. Eating fresh organic fruits and vegetables, reducing the amount of red meat that we consume, help reduce the risk of all cancers, not just one or two brands.

Thank you for a delightful article, Ms. Wente.

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