Carrying the trepidation that I usually take with me to my status update meetings with my oncologist, we arrived at the UCI Medical Center early today. It is not unusual for us to arrive early as Marvin is never late for anything and I’m almost as good at that as he is. Except when it’s fashionable to arrive late. For work and doctor appointments I am usually early. My first appointment was for my Xgeva® injection and port flush at the infusion center, which is still at its temporary location in the main hospital rather than its home on the second floor of the Chao Cancer Center. The heat of the day was already building as we arrived around 10:30 for my 11:00 am appointment.
The nurse who took care of my treatment today had just started working with the infusion center as they are apparently cross training other staff for the busy times at the infusion center. Since it is so specialized, they cannot just bring in a nurse from another floor without some training. Wendy told me it was her third day with our infusion staff. Yes, I am at a point where I almost feel that I am part of the gang; I guess that happens when you’ve been going to a clinic monthly or more often for over three years. I know almost all of the staff and volunteers, and I am almost in shock when someone shows up whose face is unfamiliar. I try not to be obnoxious, however, and act demanding about why they did not consult with me before hiring someone new. All went fine as I warmed up the Xgeva in my hands before the injection (I usually choose my tummy as the site since it is easy access). Wendy accessed my port easily, applied the little bit of gauze and tape, and I was off to the meeting with my oncologist, the reason for my morning’s jitters.
I laughed last time I went to see my oncologist because she remarked that some of her patients comment about how nervous they are when they come to see her. Don’t misinterpret. My oncologist is one of the most approachable physicians you could ever hope to have as your treating doc. In terms of personality, she is not only congenial with a sense of humor and a generously warm affect, she is also straight to the point with the goods. She does not beat around the bush and always puts all the news into perspective. She knows when to say, I don’t want to get your hopes up, but she always also knows how to deliver the scary news without frightening me out of my wits. Not that I have not been frightened out of my wits, especially early on when first hearing that I had mets and life was looking quite tenuous. Yet, even then, I always walked away with a sense of hope that we were going to get through this together, and, in my mind, and my husband’s, we would not want to be doing this walk through mets with anyone else. Being that I worked at UCI, I have always had an interest in my physicians’ academic interests as well, and it doesn’t hurt my confidence either that my oncologist, in addition to carrying a full patient complement in breast cancer, also makes time in her busy life to do research. She talks to me regularly about current research, her studies and the studies that might apply to me when the time comes.
So today, when we went over the tumor markers from the last few appointments, it was most welcome news to hear that my latest markers dropped over 200 points from the highest that they have been lately. Add that to the fact that my pain levels went from nearly ten some days, when we discovered the cancer was progressing in December, to, basically, zero, and I am celebrating all weekend. With mets we celebrate these high moments for as much as they are worth because they are always mixed in with those other moments that we’d just as soon forget.
It’s not lightly that I say that my oncologist plays a really important part in my happiness quotient. I would go as far to say that aside from my husband’s words, which can, and often do, make my day in a flash of his quick wit, my oncologist’s words are easily as significant in firing up a glow on my face. This weekend we will be celebrating this good news, and I am silently singing cheers to the members of my team who always give me reason to feel that diggity bop. I hope you’re all dancing out there with me.
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