09
Dec
09

finishing free

This was the day of all days…the big one…the last Rituxan maintenance treatment and I had been alternately looking forward to it and dreading it. Generally speaking, by nightfall, the prior day of these treatments, I turn on auto pilot and sleep-walk to the clinic. Last night was no different except that wintry weather was on its way and could easily cause delay to our 7:00  a.m. appointment in the city. My partner, Big Dawg was raised on a farm and respects weather…I mean respects! So we rose at 4:30 and left the house at 5:20.

The weather hadn’t actually arrived yet, so we were a miserable half hour early, i.e., 6:30 a.m.  The hospital never sleeps, so we could spend the 30 minutes in one of the less than delicious cafes, eating less than delicious morsels of flour, sugar and….and… Must have been something else in those buns, but can’t think what. By 7:00 we were checking in, sitting attentively for our pager to start squawking—the signal that my time had come to enter the portal gates and receive first my blood draw, and then my life-assuring Rituxan. We waited. No squawk was heard. Finally, after about 20 minutes, a technician came out and invited all those souls who would be receiving port-a-cath blood draws to follow her. I have a port-a-cath and I happily followed, thinking that the procedure would be expedited by reason of pager system failure.

No such expedition occurred—at least not for me. The device was clogged and could neither give blood nor receive Rituxan. The draw was done the old-fashioned way and I was sent to the chairs to wait…for what, I wondered? I waited and waited. Finally the technician came out again and beckoned me back to try another approach to unclogging the device. Not working; she asks who is my nurse? Can’t remember her name, so I give her the doctor’s assistant’s name, Ms. SM, and she is paged. Now the real waiting begins. A total of two hours, during which time I begin to slink into cognizance of low-lying fear—apprehensions common to cancer patients, but generally kept under wraps. It’s a bit like unlocking Pandora’s box. Other patients come and go and I am waiting with my uncooperative port, a constant reminder of my dilemma and discomfort. Finally the feeling of not being cared for takes over and I begin to tear up. A flood of cellular memory…times of childhood and beyond when I truly wasn’t cared for. This prompts BD to start the squeaky wheel apparatus. She makes calls to pagers and even speaks to some administration person. I am revived by this, but still the waiting continues.

Finally, the technician comes out and tells us that Ms. SM has been contacted and will page us out in the main waiting room. We trudge off for this area, which by now is overflowing with persons in varying stages of illness. This is discomfiting to me. We wait some more. Then a nurse appears (apparently the pager is not the signifier of choice for me) and asks us to go through the red door. We do and she is no where to be seen. Once again, long story short: we are ushered into a room to wait for Ms. SM. When she arrives, there is no apology or explanation. (This should not be a surprise to anyone reading about my medical experiences.) However, she is all smiles and warmly explains that although a final treatment had been scheduled for today, it isn’t really necessary since I have already had a little more than the two years of protocol treatment. Since Rituxan results are still being gathered world-wide, and since each person responds differently to it as well as to their cancer, I can choose to quit or stay and receive the stuff through a dorsal vein. After verifying with her that she thinks it is six of one half a dozen of the other, learning that my CT scans showed no problem, and my blood work was good, I heartily opted for NO MORE TREATMENT. Yowie, kazowie! I’m through! This means that I won’t have to endure another five or six weeks of recovery—that I can attend holiday parties and  go about my usual business with all my faculties about me.  What joy! I am officially in remission!

I will continue on with quarterly blood work, doctor exams, and periodic (hated) scans, but these will gradually lessen as long as my remission continues. I have follicular, B-cell, non-Hodgkin lymphoma that transformed in 2006 to diffuse, large, B-Cell lymphoma. The latter was wiped out with R-CHOP, the standard of care. I am left with the (indolent)  follicular lymphoma that may very likely cause a ruckus in the future, but I am told that it will not again transform as it did in 2006. Ms. SM outlined the possibilities for the treatment of recurrence. It would not be the R-CHOP and for that I am grateful. (Details of my experience—Dying to Live—can be seen as on my website.) On the other hand, it may never raise it’s disturbing head again…or it may be many years from now when I am older than the old I am now. No one knows what, how or why cancer occurs; how, when or why it recurs. No two persons respond to even the same diagnosis in the same way. Could be called a crap-shoot, I guess. Or is it a weather bell for the new individualized therapies now in the line?

Dr. G popped in to congratulate. He is really a mensch. Never mind the handshake, I had to give him an old fashioned hug.

Epilogue

Last night I asked God to help me be a conduit for my own healing and for BD to be that for me as well. I also asked to BE HEALED and to walk in faith for the healing God has already given and will surely continue to give. I asked this knowing that healing exists on many levels, not just the physical…knowing that healing is a very deep and wondrous thing. Today, I feel I’ve received a gift and a diploma. I am none the worse for wear, and clearly better for the wear. I am thankful and so ready to leave cancer behind. Tomorrow I will make an appointment with the surgeon for the removal of the dysfunctional port-a-cath. Then I will get rid of all the clothes I’ve kept just for port-a-cath infusions. Tonight I will put clean sheets on my bed and spread out my winter weight comforter. I am feeling loved by the Creator and so grateful for his/her Grace.

Grace

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6 Responses to “finishing free”


  1. 1 Anne
    December 9, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    Dear one,
    I see you outfitted in your cap and gown with strains of Pomp and Circumstance playing. Surely this whole journey is PhD worthy! I’m cheering from the risers. Can you hear me?

  2. 3 judy
    December 9, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    This was the best trip ever!
    There is joy and gratefulness in our house tonight!

  3. 4 Meg
    December 9, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    Dear Sister,
    You most assuredly have fought the good fight with our mighty Lord and trainer within you and beside you. There is joy in heaven and on earth tonight for the victory. Our sister smiles a proud smile, but not yet a welcoming one. There is still much more for your hands and heart to do, so tonight we rejoice! Blessings and gratitude, too, to BD your partner and faithful cheer leader.
    Love,
    Meg

    • 5 Naomi
      December 12, 2009 at 1:11 pm

      Thank you Meg. I am feeling a lot of relief. Our sister does indeed smile. One of these days she will tell me to just get on with it. We know how practical she is. Let’s hope no one else in the family gets a visit from the cancer beast. See you soon.

  4. 6 Meg
    December 13, 2009 at 1:17 am

    Yes, Naomi. I think that beast has plagued us long enough. I pray, hope and look to the day when she/he/it has been conquered at last. Looking ahead to the 23rd, it looks like it’s wide open for us to spend time in remembrance! Hallelujah!


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