Urine tests, that is. But more on that later…
Yesterday was the start of the next phase of chemo treatment. Having completed a pretty successful round of three treatments over a nine-week cycle, the oncologist declared that my tumors have not grown, that my tumor markers have dropped appropriately and that things are generally moving in the right direction. But, we’re not done and another few rounds of chemo is necessary.
This time around we’re doing four treatments over the course of eight weeks, and this time we’re back to the take-home infuser instead of two weeks of pills.
As you may recall, there’s a strike at my hospital. The hospital has a deficit of $367 million due to financial mismanagement and depending on what you hear from the rank and file, some salaries are way out of whack. (One nurse cited a radiology technician who is paid $30,000 per month. Another referred to the former director’s $3 million pension.) There is also talk of general mismanagement including not doing enough to attract medical tourism. As a result, staff were only paid half their salaries last month, and it’s not like they get a lot to start with. Justifiably, people want to get paid and quite frankly I agree. Unfortunately, the people responsible for what’s happening will likely have nothing done to them and the hospitals (There are two Hadassah hospitals in Jerusalem.) are – to use US government parlance – too big to fail.
Obviously, we called ahead yesterday morning to make sure the chemo ward was open. Only once we were assured that it was, we set out. Now, one would assume a hospital on strike would have a somewhat empty parking lot. Not so. We managed, nonetheless, and made our way to the waiting room. Someone new was behind the counter, but to her credit, she managed the patient in-take very efficiently. Here’s why she gets points in my book: the day before I go in for chemo, I have blood taken for a basic blood count. Once the results are posted on my HMO website, I print them and fax them in to the chemo ward. This way, they can order some of my meds in advance. When I arrived yesterday, the lovely young lady explained that she couldn’t read the fax. Luckily I had it with me.
“No need,” she said. “When I saw it was illegible, I called the HMO and had them fax it to me again.”
I’m not sure the hugeness of this simple act is immediately apparent to all. I’ve had a fairly intimate relationship with the Israeli healthcare system over the past few years. I’ve waited uselessly on lines, spent plenty of time on hold, argued with clerks who insisted I needed paperwork I didn’t (and I was right), sat quietly in waiting rooms. Oh, and I’ve looked for parking. I think this is the first time any clerk has proactively done anything to smooth the way. She could have easily waited for me to come in – it’s not like she wasn’t busy – and asked me to get someone else to fax the results in. But she didn’t. She thought about what she could do to be helpful and she did it. It was wonderful.
Next up was blood pressure check and urine culture to make sure the rest of the meds could be ordered. Blood pressure was fine, but my urine wasn’t. Apparently, the protein levels were a tad high. The nurse didn’t seem so worried (and neither was I knowing I hadn’t had a lot to drink that morning or the previous day), but she couldn’t yet order the last medication. She ordered me to drink at least three cups of water and do the test again. So, I did. Slightly better, but still not where it needs to be.
Now, those of you who have been following events know that I only have about half of my large intestine. Apparently, this is where liquid is absorbed. So, in my case, drinking a lot of water really fast doesn’t really give the kidneys a chance to do what they need to. So, while I spent plenty of time in the bathroom, it wasn’t necessarily for the correct bodily function. Lesson learned: drink more in the 24 hours leading up to chemo.
Be that as it may, the third time was the charm and finally I was given the go-ahead and the last medication was ordered. Now, all I had to do was wait “at least an hour” (read: two hours minimum). So, we took advantage and left the chemo waiting area and strolled through the hospital’s lovely new tower (thinking about all the people not getting paid) and spent some time in the adjacent shopping center, until we got the call to return.
By 2pm I was hooked up receiving the first infusions. It must be Pavlovian because no sooner did they hook me up than I fell asleep. Tammy said I was snoring a deep snore which meant I slept well. By 5:30 my take-home infuser was connected and we got ready to go.
Thankfully, I was able to work a few hours last night until the exhaustion set in. And, so far no real neuropathy. It’s strange. I know it will come; I just don’t know when. That’s kind of disconcerting. Last time, it hit hard and fast, so I keep my gloves handy and try not to think about it too much.
That’s it for now. I’m going to get dressed and tuck into some work soon.