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Friday, January 30, 2009

More Randomness.... (Blog 12)

Picking up from where I left off….

During one of my chemo recovery days the following weekend in mid-November I had no choice but to do a rudimentary cleaning session in anticipation of my guests. While my mom left Saturday morning, my adorable and beautiful (on the inside and out) younger cousin and her husband were staying with me on Saturday night before she ran the San Antonio ½ marathon on Sunday. This may sound impressive—and it should--but my cousin Taryn actually ran the Houston full marathon in 2007 and will repeat the 26.2 mile achievement again in 2009. I am so proud of her—especially given that our genetic pendulums tend to drastically swerve toward the un-athletic side of any heavily-weighted mechanism. Also, the irony that her training group—aptly named Team in Training--runs for the cause of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is not lost on me. She ran her first marathon for TNT well before I was diagnosed with my own Lymphoma diagnosis.  FYI: the money they raise directly helps reimburse patients like me with the cost of prescription drugs and chemotherapy. I digress once again…. Anyway, as I was sitting on my bed, weakly pushing the vacuum cleaner towards the wall and willing the strength to finish the half-hearted suckage job, I thought of the perfect medical-bill-paying invention: A riding vacuum cleaner. Think of your disabled relatives (and potential cash cows—keep reading) who can’t fend for themselves but can miraculously mow their own spacious lawns without incident.  Therefore the solution—clearly--is to climb aboard, start the engine, and vacuum to one’s heart’s content—or at least until the dust bunnies are no longer visible. In my mind it’s sort of a hybrid between a Hoveround and a Dyson. I’ll go halfsies on profits with anyone willing to front the capital. Think about it…..
That evening Taryn & Andy arrived, gym bags stuffed with marathon gear in tow. Since the timing put me at my most post-chemo pathetic, we spent the first few hours chatting in my living room before they took off to run an errand and pick up dinner. As I’ve said numerous times before: I often crave pizza during the first few days after treatment and Paul’s Pizza Roma is definitely worth a try for those of you who live in SA. We ate a late dinner and went to bed shortly thereafter seeing as they had to leave at 6:00 a.m. and I had a whole lotta nothin’ planned for the next day. Despite my waking early and drinking a full three cups of coffee, I felt especially crappy on Sunday. The fantabulous athletic duo came back from the marathon late in the afternoon, packed up, and left around 3:00. I, in my fatigued glory, went to bed early marveling at the juxtaposition between pitiful me and my own athletically-gifted first cousin.
The next morning I had an interview with the owner of a thriving spa here in town. They are pioneering manual therapy (similar to massage but entirely more complex and involved) in burn rehabilitation patients—mostly comprised of the active duty wounded soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan referred from BAMC. This was exciting to me on two levels: First, because I’m always up for learning about new healthcare ventures and second, because I hold a soft spot in my heart for our men in uniform. The meeting went remarkably well and I left feeling like I may have just landed a new job.
FYI: I resigned from my position (on excellent terms with my employer) as Practice Administrator for a headache clinic back in August when they were going through financial difficulties. At that time I was being actively recruited by two separate hospital groups. I was diagnosed soon after and put all negotiations on hold. Read: TEMPORARILY. After a few weeks of absorbing my new diagnosis and allowing the initial shock to wear off, I attempted to resume those discussions. By then, the decision makers had become aware of my situation—it’s not a large field, after all. Magically, I could no longer reach them (and by then we had already exchanged cell phone numbers). IMAGINE THAT! There were no laws broken and therefore I have no legal recourse (not that I’m into that but several of you will grill me about that), but I quickly realized that I had some new job searchin’ to do.
Yet, after I got home from my interview I felt unsettled regarding whether or not the owner of the spa knew what I was going through and, if not, how she would respond. At this point I was used to flaky people flaking out on me and, before I could adequately brush my teeth, hold an adult conversation, or walk the dog I simply had to know. So, I did what any sleuth detective would do: the next morning I called the woman, Linda, who had originally given her my resume. Our conversation was one for the books (or at least one of the Top Ten lists). After the formalities of greetings and niceties, I asked Linda if she had informed the employer about my cancer.
“Well yes of course!” (…insert audible sigh of relief on my part). “I told her that you were fighting a battle of cancer and may not make it, and then suggested that she not get too attached. I hope that’s okay. It’s supposed to be temporary, part-time work so I thought it would be a really good fit for both of you.” (This is where I visualize having the manners to wait to croak until AFTER I complete an important project. Hey, I’m nothing if not polite). “I also told her that you are in physical therapy twice a week and would need that time off.” Not only am I NOT terminal, but I’m in chemotherapy once every TWO weeks. I can appreciate the confusion but…still….come on!
You can only imagine the damage control I had to do. I instantly e-mailed the spa owner and informed her that I was just made aware of the blatant misconceptions surrounding my illness. She responded shortly thereafter and assured me that, no matter how sick I was, she was willing to hire me on some level based on my experience and recommendations alone. She gets a gold star for the remainder of the year. We ended the conversation on a positive note, arranging for another appointment for Friday.
On Wednesday I had to return to the clinic for a quick blood test to determine if my white count was still dangerously low or had meandered into the merely-pathetic zone. Should the news be bad, I was to expect a very unpleasant shot of Neulasta. Doctors love The N and patients hate it as it is known for producing symptoms that mimic a very severe Influenza DESPITE the Neulasta commercial featuring an elderly couple running hand-in-hand down the beach amidst the backdrop of a setting sun. Neulasta’s effectiveness is nevertheless undeniable and is said to keep many people out of the hospital. Luckily, I was delighted to find that the level had increased on its own and I was sent home with the thumbs-up from my doctor. From this point on I will always hold my breath when I get my counts back since I know I’m only a Neulasta injection away from feeling like I’d prefer to die than suffer its misery.

On Thursday night I was fortunate (and eager!) to attend another Young Cancer Survivors support group sponsored by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Although it was held well after dark at the extremely late hour of 6:30 (remember, we CPs--that’s hip lingo for “cancer patients”--don’t get out much these days), it was well worth the effort. We met in the private room at La Madeleine and dined on drinks, sandwiches, pasta salad, and assorted desserts while discussing such vastly diverse topics as the death of a group member, hair loss, and how to address rude and inappropriate comments by strangers. I was able to offer the entertaining tidbit about my impending death as told to the spa owner. The group was amused by this asinine comment which they have since deemed worthy of the title Number One Dumbest Thing to Say to a Cancer Patient.

Signing off for now. Will write more about my friend Adam’s visit soon!!!

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