Friday, March 9, 2012

A humbling meeting

Yesterday was a BAD day for me.

When I checked in at the radiation oncology dept, I thought I would just bide my time, as usual, until someone came and retrieved me, escorting me to one of the two radiation rooms. Well, someone DID come out, but that was to inform me that the radiation equipment was currently dismantled, as they addressed a faulty part that needed replacement. They had the replacement part on site, but still had to re-assemble the machine. And then they were proceeding with those who were already waiting. One person was in mid-treatment when the machine failed, so of course, that patient would finish as soon as possible. And then was another patient to go before me, and then me. My appt. was at 2 pm, and the best guess was that they MIGHT get to me around 3:30.

So, in my wisdom and spare time, I called my bank, since they had left me both a voice mail AND sent me a text, expressing concern that fraudulent transactions were being attempted with my debit card. Which, by the way, has ALWAYS remained in my possession. Not even Mr. L has authorization to use that card. I rarely, RARELY use it for on-line shopping, but it is my life's blood, in a manner of speaking, for almost every other transaction: restaurants, grocery shopping, pumping gas, etc. Well, they quizzed me about all kinds of transactions, only two of which I owned up to. Apparently the number was stolen, but from the refusals made when other attempts were made to use this card, the users/thieves had no other info from the card. Not the expiration date, nor my mailing address, nor the "plus three" numbers on the reverse side of the card. Thank God. Now came the bad news: based on my responses, they were cancelling my card! Arrrrggghhhh!!! However, I DID tell them that I was NOT at the mailing address that the bank has for me, that I am living (temporarily) elsewhere during the duration of my treatment. They conceded to put a "rush" on the replacement card, which means that it MAY arrive here by Monday. My own guess for ETA is Tuesday.

Thus, I am now wearing out my charge card (also issued by this same bank). When I do get the debit card replaced AND registered, I'll quit using the charge card and pay it off from my bank account. Too much crap to deal with in one day.

And yet, and yet... after I returned from the walkway area where I had this not-so-fun telephone conversation, I met a woman who was also waiting for her radiation appt. at this same clinic. We started talking - how long have you been having treatments, what kind of cancer, etc. And it put my situation in perspective immediately. And I am humbled by what she and her husband are dealing with.

She was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor. I didn't ask questions about what the exact type of tumor (or tumors) she has. She was diagnosed at Mayo Clinic, down in Rochester, MN, where a lot of big-time diagnosis of cancer and other diseases is done, and it is kind of a mecca for that sort of thing. She said they were there for about a week, while all kinds of tests were done. And the docs (apparently two gave her the results) basically said she had 3 - 6 months. Actually, one of the docs was pretty firm on this diagnosis, and more or less told her that nothing could be done for her. But the other doc - obviously someone more compassionate and humane - said that the decision to pursue treatment options was hers. She is in her early 50's and has 3 small grandchildren. Her eyes welled up with tears when she mentioned these kids. So she has decided to try whatever they can do for her. She is on oral chemo doses daily, and this past week was her first round of radiation treatments to her brain.

In looking for info on brain tumors, this fact appeared: there are over 120 types of brain tumors. And thus, the diversity of these tumors probably contributes to the difficulty in treating them.

In the therapy room, I have seen head/face masks, and I asked if she was fitted with one to use during her treatment. They are meant to immobilize the head during this sort of radiation. She said that, yes, she wore one during her treatments.

During the course of our conversation, her husband came in. Seems like a very nice guy, and naturally, the stress and strain from dealing with this situation, has got to weigh heavily on him, also. Damn cancer all to hell... disrupting and taking way too many lives.

Sometimes I wonder if I will be around for my next high school reunion, which will be our 50-year reunion. Or will I be a statistic, just a photo on the "in memoriam" table? But trust me, folks, I do NOT dwell on dying. I sleep just fine at night, and these morbid thoughts are usually NOT part of my average day at all. To use a trite phrase, it is what it is. I can't do anything to change the situation, but I can pursue treatments available to me. And I am thankful that I have health insurance to pay (most of) the bills. Good thing, too - just received a statement from the organization providing the actual, hands-on treatments: the cost of the CT scans was just about $10,000! Wow. The charges have been submitted to my insurer, so I do not yet know what portion I am expected to pay. But YIKES!

If any of my classmates read this, and if I am NOT at that reunion, I want you to put at least ONE photo of me with my poor ol' bald head, on that table. I want someone to know what I looked like, during these treatments. And another photo of me smiling... because life is too somber to have to face, if laughter isn't a part of it.

Hair update - the fuzz is increasing on my head and a few hairs have re-appeared in my nose (I know - TMI, right?). But my eyebrows, even six weeks after my 3rd chemo, are still bailin' on me. Damn. The hair on my arms? Still there. The body is a complex organization, and apparently not all hair is created equal. I realize that the re-growth on my head and other parts will probably head for the hills, once I resume chemo. But I am curious to see how much more hair will grow, in the interim.

Because I have railed and ranted about God dumping more stuff on me than is fair, I think that some of you believe that I do NOT believe. Au contraire - how can you go through this and be an atheist? Anyway, I have not ever asked for prayers for myself (although a friend of mine said he encouraged his family to pray NOT for him, but for his doctors!). But if you would drop a plea to the Big Guy for this lady that I just met, as well as for her family, I would be grateful.

As ever, Old Grouchy herself, signing off.


Kim said...

Gah! I hope you get your card soon. I hate people sometimes. I just can't imagine a person that would think it's ok to do that to another. :( Someone got my card number last year but my bank caught it fast.

I will be praying for the lady you met. And I will continue to pray for you and your doctors. *hug*

The Retired One said...

You are in my prayers for sure! And my thoughts....I admire your courage more than I can express. xxoo