Everything went well today. We left Lafayette for Indy at 1045, and we arrived at 1200 for a 1230 appointment. In the lobby, they have puzzles set out for patients awaiting their appointment times, and Lori and I crushed one puzzle (smallish one), started another, and found 11 missing pieces from the first puzzle mixed into the second puzzle’s box! So needless to say, we were feeling pretty proud of ourselves. They say pride comes before the fall, but we just kept on whipping those puzzles.
While waiting for them to call Lori into the infusion room, we overhead two women talking about their cancer histories and their thoughts on how great the IU Cancer Clinic is. Lori chimed in and said she was glad to hear about how happy they were with IU. One of women was named Karen, and her husband was there with her. We shared our individual stories. They found out we were living in Lafayette and that my dad is a pastor in town. We shared names of various family members and as it turns out, she is very good friends with my parents from their childhood years. She started naming neighbors and friends from the small town of Flora, IN, and I knew them all.
As we continued to talk, we gained quite a bit of insight into a day in the life of a cancer patient. Karen’s situation is very similar to Lori’s, and she had been through many different types of chemos. She was very upbeat, and I could tell that she decided to handle her cancer in a positive way. Karen and her husband had been to Mayo Clinic in MN. They raved about their care there, but they swore that their IU Dr. is as good or better than any at Mayo. They had transferred Karen to IU at the recommendation of the Mayo Drs who said there was a breast cancer Dr. there who is as good as they come. We asked who their Dr. is at IU, and you guessed it… Dr. S.
Eventually, they called Lori back to the infusion room. They have a nice setup for each patient. There is a large community room with recliner chairs set up along the outside wall for the patients. There are privacy partitions between each recliner. There are TVs as well, but no one seems to care to watch. In the middle of the room , they have a guest waiting area with recliners and magazines. A snack area is set up with a big Keurig coffee maker, popsicles, ice cream, crackers, chips, etc. Interestingly, each patient reacts differently to the treatment, and the various snacks meet the various needs of the patients. The popsicles, for example, help many patients stymie the onset of sores in the mouth.
A nurse came by and gave a quick summary of how the day would proceed. He set up her IV and began running saline mixed with Benadryl and then steroids. The Benadryl helps patients who struggle with anxiety and nausea. Lori probably didn’t need that today, but I guess it’s protocol. Those took about an hour to infuse, and the Benadryl really made Lori tired. When those bags were empty, they began the chemo. This requires two nurses to administer for accountability purposes. I suppose you really can’t afford to give the the wrong patient the wrong type of chemo, so I fully support the buddy system. Her type of chemo is called Taxol, and it is potent for both the triple negative and the HER2 types. This is good for Lori because we still don’t know which type has blessed her. The chemo took one hour to infuse, and she slept through most of it. She stayed cuddled under a bunch of blankets; the cold from the IV fluid had her struggling to keep warm. Next time, I’ll be prepared with a heated blanket!
When the bag was empty, they pulled out the IV, and we got up and walked out. She slept for the vast majority of the 1+15 hr ride home, and then she slept for quite a bit more in her bed. She doesn’t show any side effects from the chemo yet, but that is not expected for a few days. The steroids kind of hold off those effects for a couple of days. Taxol can have quite a few side effects however, so we are bracing for those. Google it if you’re curious; it’s a really long list of bad stuff. It’s actually really amazing that someone figured this out, because chemo is basically a toxin that eats up everything in its path. It wreaks havoc on the body, but it also attacks the cancer and so we consider it worth the trade-off. The body would naturally reject the toxin, but the chemo is delivered with a natural substance found in plants which the body will readily accept. Once the fluid is running in the veins, the natural substance dissolves, and the chemo is left to do its thing. We basically trick the body into accepting something very harmful to itself using a Trojan chemical cocktail.
So that’s it. Day 1 of treatment is done. Hopefully, her body reacts well to this type of chemo. Like UK in the big dance, we’re going back next week for the next round! No offense to any Duke, Syracuse, UNC, or KU fans out there…well, maybe a little.
Furthermore, I just want to say again how much we appreciate your words of encouragement and your prayers. Every day is so much better because of everyone’s support. People are texting, emailing, Facebooking, snail mailing, donating money (you can’t believe how much wigs cost!!) and blogging so much encouragement.
Finally, I have to give a huge shout out to my commander and one of my squadron docs (I’ll leave out their names…something about quiet professionals) who literally went the extra mile this week to help us along. The good doc has done every bit of my insurance legwork so I can focus on caring for Lori and spending quality family time. The insurance referrals came through as approved while Lori was in the recliner today! And my commander traveled all the way to Indiana to sit down with me and figure out a plan for future care. Neither of them had to do that, but they did, and the significance of their help is immeasurable.