Yesterday, Aug. 14, I drove to San Antonio to see Dr. Vijay Gunuganti at Cancer Care Centers of South Texas, to discuss my treatment.
I arrived there on schedule, and as I approached the front door of the building, I noticed what appeared to be vomit, yes, vomit on the driveway of the building porte-cochere…this was not a good sign. I thought of the poor soul who must’ve been nauseated after their treatment, and just couldn’t hang on. I hoped I was wrong about what the substance was, and maybe I was anticipating seeing something like that as I entered a chemotherapy facility…kind-of like expecting to see ghosts when visiting a haunted house.
I opened the door to the treatment center, and a blast of cold air hit me like I was entering a walk-in freezer. From there on, however, the receptionist, the doctor and all the folks I encountered were quite warm. I completed the ever-present paperwork, and took a seat; I was called in very quickly and threw out my arm so the lab tech could draw tons of blood for testing, and they got my vitals.
From there, I went to an exam room and waited. And waited. Unable to sit still for very long, in medical waiting rooms if left to my own devices, I start exploring. I open drawers and cabinet doors and check out all the contents, read the medical literature, etc. My rationale is that as soon as I am doing something I shouldn’t, the doctor will come in. And voila, in mid-drawer, here came Dr. Gunuganti.
He was just about the most pleasant doctor ever, which was wonderful. We discussed my diagnosis, prognosis, and any other nosis that needed discussing. He went down the list of treatment side effects and explained the chance of getting each one. The potential good news is that there’s a decent chance I might escape this life-saving quagmire relatively unscathed. He explained that with medication, he could control all but fatigue. There’s also neuropathy, some numbness and tingling in fingertips and such that might disappear, or it might not. Or I might never get it. As long as it doesn’t affect my picture-taking, I think I can tolerate that.
I thought that all sounded pretty good, or at least better than I’d anticipated. He was realistic but positive about the whole thing, the way I’m trying to be. I think he and I will make a good team.
We discussed administering the treatment through a conventional IV, and he discouraged it. He said the chemical they’re using is pretty hard on veins; he took a look at mine and said he’d let his infusion nurses decide. Clearly, they’re the bosses at that outfit! We concluded our chat, and visited the infusion area.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but what I saw wasn’t it. The room was large, open and airy, with lots of natural light; it felt like a peaceful spot. There were rows of lounge type chairs with IV poles by many of them; there wasn’t a full house when I was there, but the people I saw who were receiving treatment seemed to be doing well. I thought they looked strong and calm, and probably even grateful for this chance to vanquish the enemy.
The infusion nurse looked at my veins, and she looked at me, and she said no, you need to get a port. Ugh. One more invasive procedure to endure. For those who don’t know, this thing is called a medi-port, which is placed in the upper chest, under the skin, and connected to a vein or artery. I’ve heard it really does make receiving chemotherapy a whole lot easier, so I guess I’ll have to join the human race and get one. That procedure is scheduled for Aug. 23 in San Antonio.
THE LITTLE CELL THAT WON’T
With yesterday’s visit, I am inching closer to this cancer thing becoming real; ironically, according to the CT scan done at MD Anderson, there is no detectable cancer inside me. I asked Dr. Gunuganti about not having chemotherapy at all, and he said that was a good question. He explained that absolutely nothing could happen and I could be fine. But what if there was one little cell left behind after the surgery…one cell becomes two, two become four, four become 16, and on and on. Well, then, suddenly chemo is a no-brainer!
It is interesting to me how the pace of activity has moderated since my cancer was found. When it was suspected, things couldn’t move quickly enough to get the SOB discovered, and out. Then, things slowed way down. Dr. Gunuganti explained that treatments should start six to eight weeks after the date of diagnosis, not the next day or the next week. But, what if that little shit is in there right now, multiplying like rabbits?? He said not to worry, the chemo is powerful medicine.
So – on Aug. 28 I run out onto the field in full pads to get this game rolling. As soon as that treatment is over, I will only have five more! If I calculated the schedule correctly, I’ll be finished on Dec. 11, in time for Christmas and a celebration of the birth of the ultimate giver of life.
After my visit concluded, I raced to the new Super Target on Austin Hwy. It was like entering retail nirvana, especially compared to the seamy Wal Mart in Beeville, where the dress code requires some part of bedtime attire, especially house slippers, and no un-tattooed skin is allowed to show unless you’re under age three, or you’re me.
I filled my basket with things I could never find here, and headed to the checkout. The checker ran each item under the scanner, but the process came to a screeching halt when she got to a bottle of wine. She entered my DOB in the register, and for some reason it wouldn’t process it. The manager was called, but didn’t appear, and here came that prickly feeling of being the one holding up the check-out line, the dolt who did something stupid and who deserves the laser-beam stares of the gathering crowd in line, and who doesn’t dare look back at them.
The nice man who had the misfortune to get in line behind me had one – count ’em, one thing to check out. He finally said to the checker, after the manager never showed for what seemed like hours, to card him for my wine. At first, we all thought he was kidding, until he whipped out his driver’s license and held it out for the clerk. Muttering under her breath, “We’re not supposed to do this”, she ran it through and I bought my wine.
I shook this nice guy’s hand and thanked him profusely; he made what was the most brilliant remark I’ve heard in ages: “I know better than to get between a woman and her wine”.