Since my last update much has happened. I’ve enjoyed my Passover break from chemo with friends and family; I’ve enjoyed a trip to New York to do some work in the office; I had the privilege of participating in a thanksgiving meal in honor of a young friend who was sick but now is not; I took a prolonged series of flights to get home; and, yes, I went back to the chemo ward.
If you think that’s the sum of my dispatch, you clearly don’t know me.
Passover was, in a word, amazing. We hosted the Seder and, for the first time, my in laws were able to enjoy the meal with all their grandchildren at one time. Questions were asked and answered; songs were sung; candy distributed; food was enjoyed; and guilt was doled. The balance of the Passover week was spent eating, hiking, eating, sleeping, eating, relaxing. All in all, an excellent experience.
Immediately following the holiday, I hightailed it to the airport, excited to get back to New York for the first time in two months. As usual, my mask did its thing, and I received assistance through security and to the plane, including early boarding. (Strictly speaking, since I was on a break from chemo, I likely didn’t really need to wear the mask but, hey, why not take advantage?) The flight was uneventful but, since I was not lucky enough for an upgrade, I watched many movies and tried not to disturb my seatmates as I got up often to walk around.
Going back to the office was…normal. My coworkers were happy to see me and, after initial pleasantries things basically got back to normal. Lots of meetings and discussions. Some new projects and assignments to deal with. But the word to best describe it all is “normal.” And, for that I am grateful. There were some people who asked more questions, others who wanted to but didn’t know how, and some who exuded the attitude of: “Great. You’re here. Let’s work.” And, for each I am grateful.
I also had the distinct pleasure during my trip of attending a thanksgiving meal in honor of a young friend who had been sick for quite some time and, finally, thanks to the persistence of his parents and creative medical thinking, is finally well. He suffered from intussusception, and it turns out the whole thing was caused by an allergen in his esophagus, easily treated with allergy medicine.
My trip home was epic. It took 22 hours. I was supposed to leave New York on Monday night just before midnight and arrive in Tel Aviv Tuesday evening at about 8:00, following a change of planes in Istanbul. Such was not meant to be. The midnight flight out of JFK was delayed until 2:00 a.m. and then 3:00. About half the plane was going on to Tel Aviv and new boarding passes for the second flight were printed. In the end, we didn’t take off until around 4:00 and, you guessed it, by the time we landed in Istanbul, the Tel Aviv flight was long gone. My wheelchair guy was thoroughly confused when I showed him my boarding pass and asked me if I was flying the next day. No, I explained in my best Turkish pantomime, my original flight was delayed and you need to find out where to take me. Miraculously, he figured it out and took me to the transfer desk where yet another boarding pass was printed out for me, this time for an 11:30 pm flight (the last one to Tel Aviv for the day). We then went on to a special waiting area for passengers who need assistance, and I sat next to a lovely woman who was flying to Tehran. Others were off to Beirut, Medina, Amman. In some ways, it was reminiscent of being in the hospital: we all just want to get where we’re going, so spare me the tribal feuding.
I finally landed in the wee hours and – wonders of wonders! – my bag was right there on the carousel. No way, had I thought, that through two flight changes would my bag make it with me. But, I was surprised and, when I called Tammy to inform her of the good news (that I was home and my bag with me), she vaulted out of bed and into the car to come get me. I was finally home by 4-something.
Just a few hours later we made our way back to the hospital. For those of you keeping score at home, you’ll note that typically I would go in for treatment on Monday mornings. Given my travel schedule, the oncologist told me to go on Wednesday. Let me tell you, it was a whole different experience. First of all, we got there early because I didn’t have time, as I usually do, to have a blood test the day before. So, I knew I’d have to wait. Lo and behold, while checking in we saw one of the nurses we know and we casually mentioned that I had just returned that morning from overseas.
“Come with me,” said she. And she immediately ushered us to the back (where there was no one yet receiving treatment), drew blood, checked my blood pressure, and told me to lay down to get some sleep while the meds were ordered.
What a break! I got to sleep the morning away instead of sitting in the waiting room. Blessedly, treatment went smoothly. I think Tammy was getting tired, though. She stole my pillow to sit on. But, I guess we can forgive her that infraction.
Throughout the day, there was an elderly gentleman in the bed opposite me also receiving treatment. It was obvious from the way the nurses were talking to him that he was new. We made eye contact at various points throughout the day and I realized that, unlike eye contact with strangers on the street, in the chemo ward we don’t necessarily quickly look away. We communicate, as I’ve written about in the past, in a language all our own.
As we got up to leave, he called me over and said he had a question. The nurses were encouraging him to have a port implanted and he saw that I had one and wanted my advice. I told him I agreed with the nurses and that it would make treatment easier (port vs. regular IV in the hand). As we left it struck me how odd it is that I was asked for and was dispensing advice to someone easily 25 years my senior. But I guess that’s one of the odd things about cancer. Older doesn’t necessarily mean wiser or more experienced. And it certainly doesn’t mean less tentative or unsure. I hope he sees the value of a port I look forward to seeing him at my next treatment.
Next up for me is an appointment this week with the head of surgery to discuss possible next steps in terms of surgery. Stay tuned.