Today Phil goes in for another infusion (the term used for intravenous drug therapy - chemotherapy in his case). For a while we thought this would be his last one. At his last appointment, two weeks ago, the Nurse Practitioner (NP) told him that she thought that the Oncologist wanted him to have chemo through August. It was upsetting news and frustrating to say the least. He asked her to check with the Oncologist (who is on maternity leave until mid-July). Imagine his complete frustration and just utter blah when the NP called and said that she'd discussed things with the Oncologist and actually she wants him to have chemo through October! OCTOBER???? Not the news we were hoping for. Of course they say, "it is ultimately up to you." I read in one medical journal that a patient who was having this type of chemo (preventative or adjuvant*) said, "so you want me to go through that hell to hopefully destroy cancer cells that you aren't sure are there and then when you are done you won't be able to tell me if it worked?" Phil says that is exactly how he feels.
So, today is not his last treatment. I thought it might be interesting to describe a bit of how this all works. I don't intend for it to be whiney but lets face it, you aren't going to come away from reading this and think, "wow, that Phil, what a lucky guy to get to do that every two weeks!" And with that warning, I will now proceed to describe what Phil will experience today (and the next two days).
He gets up at around 5:30 a.m. and showers (enjoying his last shower for three days), gets ready, eats (enjoying his last real meal for three or four days), and drives about 90 minutes to University of AL-B'ham. He checks in. Then he waits. He sits in a large room of other chemotherapy patients and their families. The television is ALWAYS on the station that carries Tyra and all those court shows (like Judge Judy, et al). Not the most engaging programming. In the air is the sickening smell of stale coffee (because they have free coffee for everyone who is waiting). Finally after waiting for a while a nurse calls him back and they take samples of his blood so that they can make sure he is healthy enough for them to make him sick. They test his white count and every-other-time his CEA. The blood is drawn through his Power Port so at least he doesn't have to be stuck. When that is done, he returns to the waiting room and he waits.
*It takes approximately one million cancer cells to make a growth large enough to detect. Therefore the fact that there is no detectable cancer means he has less than a million cells - he could still have thousands. Therefore they do this adjuvant treatment in order to, we hope, reduce or destroy those cells that still may or may not exist in his body.