Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Dishing out jokes but eating humble pie

True to form–Steve’s form of course-there were some light, comical moments in the common chemo room today. There was the “serious” comment directed toward me from Dr. O’Connor, “You know, the behavioral issues I’ve had with Steve all reappeared in a matter of minutes today.” Same guy who has already said that some new chemo drugs come in suppository form.

And there was even a Guinness remark today, because we need one of those per session, especially if Dr. O’Connor is around. Steve, while pointing to the little old lady sleeping in the recliner while receiving her dark colored iron infusion, asked Dr O’Connor, “So why is it that her I.V. has Guinness and mine doesn’t? Does her insurance pay better?”

But better yet was the joke that Katie, one of our favorite nurses, and I had at Steve’s expense. Yes, I know, quite a feat because it doesn’t happen often that we get him with a joke. Katie was about to take out Steve’s I.V. line to his chest port, and pulled the pale blue polyester curtain around the two of them. I needed to move my tea from the arm rest of his chair so they could have their privacy… point at which Steve exclaimed, “Oh, Katie!” Except that he hadn’t realized that Katie and I took his exclamation to insinuate that something unusual–shall I say inappropriate?-was happening behind that polyester curtain. Steve was merely remembering something he wanted to tell her. Anyway, Katie and I howled, and it took Steve almost 30 seconds to catch on. Even the little old lady on the iron drip laughed before Steve did! (He claims that if we had had all the chemo we would have been slow on the uptake, too.)

On the more serious side, we have our meeting with Dr.-Not-Eliot Spitzer at MGH on March 10th, my brother Ed’s, fiftieth birthday. We also had interesting interactions with two other patients today:

First, we said goodbye to a young woman with breast cancer who started her chemo the same day as Steve, December 1st. She is now at the end of her chemo, and is facing radical surgery and reconstruction mid-March. I can remember our first day at chemo, and watching her struggle with the whole thing; she was reading a book entitled, “Surviving Cancer” and as the day progressed vacillated between anxiety and anger. Ever since then, we have seen her nearly every cycle, caught up each time and shared stories; she’s a really sweet woman, a Mom with young kids, and incredibly focused on getting through all of her treatments with a fair amount of serenity and level-headedness. It was an odd thing to wish her luck as she wished us the same…

The second patient starting chit-chatting with Steve during the obligatory blood work in the lab. He seemed quite the garrulous type (let’s just say he likes to “share”) It turns out he’s a banker, and also has mantle cell. It seems he has a different variant of mantle cell, and his treatment regime is different than Steve’s. Here’s the kicker: He has had six rounds of chemo and his CT scan is only showing him 70% cancer free; said differently, 30% of his lymphatic system is still riddled with the stuff.

This is where the humble pie comes in. We already felt grateful to know the stuff is doing what we need it to do; but we also realize that this isn’t exact science, and here’s a man with the same diagnosis and same team, in a really different situation.

So… given Steve’s love of cherries, I found this cute photo online. If you can believe it, the title of the photo is actually, “Cherry pie still life.” I couldn’t even make that one up!
And thanks for all the continued thoughts and prayers - we're humbled by those too!

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