Thursday, September 5, 2019

The First Day of the Rest of My Life – School Day – September 5, 2019 – Day 5

Today is Day 5 of my medical journey and adventure. Somehow, the idea of traveling over the 7 mountains and through the 7 valleys is already extremely tiring. But, that being said, today was a great day. I'm exhausted tonight from today's adventure.

Carolyn and I left for the Winchester Medical Center at about 1 PM for a 3 PM appointment with Rodney Huff, my medical oncologist's right-hand man, so to speak. Rodney was about a half-hour late in meeting us in the small exam room in which we were placed to await his arrival. When he arrived, he apologized profusely for his tardiness. He explained that extending the time he felt he had to expend with his last patient was necessary for their comfort and putting them at ease.

Then it was my turn. The first thing Rodney said is that he recognized me, and he saw my name in the files and computer he was using for my case. I reminded him of our experience from 20 years ago with my former significant other and – in a flash – it all came back to him. It was just like Dr. Gemma and me when we met after 20 years had passed, only a few days ago.

After we passed some pleasantries and did some reminiscing he got down to business. What a thorough briefing and education he gave Carolyn and me. And, like his previous patient, he spent much more time with us than I imagine was allocated. I guess we were together for close to an hour and a half. He had a book (another book) that he gave me with so much important and powerful information in it.

He talked about the treatment plan (which had changed since I met with his superior only a week ago). He talked about the upsides and the downsides, the side effects and the after-effects. He talked about nutrition. Basically, he gave us a mini-course on cancer and the treatments.

But, most important, first, and for the first time since this all began just a couple weeks ago, Rodney let me know the current stage of my cancer. I will not reveal that now because this information will be more firm after the PET Scan I'll undergo next Tuesday. However, it was what I was hoping for, a much more positive staging than it could have been.

Second, Rodney fielded our questions like a real pro. He pulled no punches, but there was nothing that was left unclear. Needless to say, I went to this hospital, cancer center and oncologist because I have 100% confidence and faith in them. But, this level of professionalism, yet informality in delivering valuable information – with humor and humanity left both my friend, Carolyn, and me extremely reassured.

Rodney then took us on a tour of the rest of the facilities and offices before taking us back into the treatment room. That area was amazing. They have beverages and snacks for the patients. The entire room is a wall of glass looking out over a beautiful, serene and peaceful landscape, including a large pond. It very much resembled the kind of places I seek out during my nomadic travels to camp for periods of time. There was very little outside that wall of glass that resembled a hospital environment. This was all very well thought out with the patients in mind, especially some who are very sick.

The next to the last stop before we left for the day took us to the triage nurse's office where two oncology nurses are on duty all day to answer questions or assist patients if they need emergency assistance. And, during off-hours when the nurses are not available, I have a card with a phone number to call that will immediately connect me with someone on call from my doctor's staff. It is very reassuring to know that kind of service is available.

The final stop was at the office of one of the two people who handle the financial facet of all this treatment. Caite had all my information in front of her when Rodney dropped us off with her. She reviewed everything including how Medicare was going to work and how much I was going to be responsible for. I can only say that when she finished, I realized I was, of course, going to have some out of pocket expenses, BUT it was not going to bankrupt me. Indeed, this level of treatment is very expensive, however, I was amazed at how much Medicare was going to cover. They, again, educated, informed and relieved me with a very stressful topic.

This was the end of the session and the day. Carolyn and I were the last couple of people in the building, but we left, me especially, feeling unbelievably relieved of much stress and assured I had made the right decision. Carolyn, a retired nurse with over 50 years in the profession and who had worked at this specific hospital for about 15 years beginning a couple of years prior to the hospital moving to the new complex in 1990, said to me, if she ever had to deal with cancer, this is the place she would want to be treated.

There was so much information to absorb, but I left with a book full of the information Rodney had delivered to us during our time with him. Carolyn and I were both exhausted and hungry. So, I knew where there was a nearby steakhouse I had eaten at before. So, we headed there, sat down and enjoyed a delicious meal. After our relaxing dinner, we headed back over the 7 mountains and through the 7 valleys to Carolyn's place in WV. We arrived here about two hours ago, exhausted, but feeling so much better about my condition and the care and treatments I begin receiving next week.

So, that's it for Day 5. The adventure moves forward. We have 5 days until we head over the mountains and through the valleys again for my PET Scan. The day following the PET Scan my first treatment is scheduled. But, thanks to the change in the treatment protocol, I do not have to return on Friday. So, only two days over the mountains and through the valleys next week and then another 5 days until we have to make the trip, again. But, we'll talk about that in the future. For now . . .

Live free and be happy. EH

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