18 June 2009

Graduation Day at HCI

Time to catch up on the events of Tuesday.

It was a bit strange to have a late morning appointment at the HCI. Usually we would be on the way up to SLC bright and early. Instead we had a bit of reprieve and a lot of mixed emotions. Ford anticipated that this would be the final treatment because that is what was laid out as to what the plan of action would be, 6 treatments of chemo every three weeks, if all went normally. Since there have been several bumps in the road and a few delays, I have always, figuratively, held my breath on days like this.

Arriving later in the morning, there were a lot more people than normal at the HCI coming and going. We went through the routine prelims of checking in, getting the IV inserted and labs drawn, the weigh in with all the vitals checked. Then we waited. Dr. Glenn, we knew, would not be seeing us today. She was on vacation (much needed, we're sure). Dr. Pollack, the Fellow, would be seeing us solo. He is quite pleasant, knowledgeable, and explains things quite thoroughly, even with illustrations if necessary. He was running just a bit behind schedule, but not much. He asked all the usual questions about anything unusual, any pain, and so on. He gave Ford a good checking over, reviewed the course of treatment, outlined what the schedule would be for the next month, answered questions, and took the joke/riddle/pun of the visit (Ford has made it a practice to take something each visit for some grins). This one was supplied by our youngest daughter: "The name Pavlov--does it ring a bell?"

After all that, we heard the words we anticipated: "Well, this is the last treatment."

No Neulasta injection this time, so we need to be alert to any fever. Next day follow-up labs will be okay to be drawn at UVRMC with a copy to him. Then he shook our hands and told us if we were ever in North Carolina to look him up. His Fellowship ends in two weeks and he is off to practice on his own. Congrats and thanks, Dr. P.!

Ford was delighted when once again in the Infusion Suite they told him that the chairs were all occupied and he would need to have a bed. He slept through a major portion of the chemo treatment. There were a few abnormalities, but nothing that the wonderful nurse couldn't figure out. The last few treatments seem to hit Ford a little harder. He is more pale and more tired. This time he got the off-taste in his mouth during treatment and nothing tasted very good to him. For me, the time seemed to pass very quickly. Just before 5:00 pm, the final flush was done, the machine alarm sounded, and the whole nursing crew from the Infusion Suite gathered around and "graduated" Ford. They sang a song that they sing heralding the end of chemo and they gave Ford a certificate of completion and also a blanket that was made by volunteers. It was really a great moment. Then they gave hugs, well wishes, and good byes. They are very wonderful people.

I asked the nurse that was in charge of Ford for the day how many patients they treat in a day. 50. 50 patients times 5 days a week. I am in awe of these women. They are very upbeat, encouraging, and professional. I only wish we had thought to take a picture of them all. We are grateful to them for their kindness and care and, in particular, to Laural, Mary, Lori, and Deanne.

Next up in the middle of July will be a PET Scan and a follow-up with Dr. Glenn. Then another endoscopy with Dr. Bodily to check on the ulcer situation and get a direct visual comparison.

Ford was wiped out for about 24 hours. Then yesterday afternoon it was fairly obvious when the effects of the Prednisone began to kick in. He began to pick up a bit on the energy and began to get hungrier. The nausea has been mild. He only slept for about 4 hours last night and has been hard at work on the computer for several hours. His spirits are high. We've also noticed that his hair is beginning to grow again.

His follow-up lab results were good. He did not have a huge drop in sodium this time. After Sunday, the 2-liter total liquid intake restriction is lifted and he can begin to have more liquids even though his water intake is still limited.

As mentioned before, the doctor cautioned against exposure to infection. Because Ford did not receive the Neulasta shot this time, he needs to be even more cautious because his body is on its own to bring the WBC count back into normal range where he has some immunity. It will take longer this time. But it is a good test to see how his body is doing at taking over and fighting on its own.

This is the gist of where we are today. There are other things here and there that are probably blog worthy, but will wait until my head clears a bit and I can put them together in a coherent form.

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