Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Now there's no "we" in team


Now I'm just mad.

I'm not irked. I'm not p.o.'d. I'm not upset. I'm Peter Finch in “Network” mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore mad. Except that I am gonna take it. I have no choice and that makes me mad. Not irked. Not... well, you get the point.

My multiple myeloma treatment has reached something of a crossroads. What we've been doing seems to be working, yet my oncologist wants me to consider a stem cell transplant which, among other things, increases the chances of keeping the cancer in remission. Since the disease is incurable, it also buys some time while research continues and new drugs are developed.

Well, who wouldn't want to sign up for that? Since we already know a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, let me say that what I know about the transplant procedure at this point I know from reading various pamphlets, something I normally am loathe to do. Basically, some of my own healthy stem cells are harvested (their word choice, not mine) from my blood, frozen and put back after I've received massive doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation to destroy the cancerous cells.

The recuperation period can be months, and infection is a huge concern, especially in the beginning when it seems the patient (their word choice not mine) needs to be isolated.

One of the things I've earned about multiple myeloma is that, more than most other types of cancers, each case tends to be different; each person's response to the disease and to treatment tends to be theirs alone.

This is why my oncologist here set up and appointment for Sheri and me with one of the specialists at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. They deal in transplants all the time and they certainly can give me specific information about what a transplant would mean to me and my long-term health. The appointment is just around the corner and we have a list of questions we want answered.

Except, now there is no “we.” Though Sheri is almost fanatical in her efforts to keep healthy, she has picked up a case of the flu that seems to be going around. There's simply no way she would be able to make the trip to Boston and back, plus all the stress of the actual appointment. Also, much of the medication I am taking as part of my treatment is actually designed to prevent infections. It can be a serious problem, so Sheri is actually staying with a friend until she gets better. Overly cautious? You tell us. Sheri will tell you that she is not about to do anything that would compromise my treatment, or even possibly compromise it. Hello friend's house.

This isn't about making the trip alone, because I know we have friends who will be more than happy to help. This is about “one more thing.” They say God won't give you anymore than you can handle. My heart believes that but my mouth is getting a bit chippy and wants to yell, “Enough!”

So I get mad and so what? I can't even throw open a window and yell out 'I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore.” Sheri has winter proofed all the windows and I'm not about to undo all her work just so I can throw a hissyfit.

Besides, we already know that “Enough” isn't my call. If having, not only cancer, but a cancer virtually no one has ever heard of (though I'd like to think I've changed that some); one that only about 100,000 people in the entire country have; going through the Christmas holidays with no electricity, no heat, no running water isn't enough, well, let me just take a minute to put on my big boy pants so we can continue our journey.

Obviously, fear has slithered its way back onto the scene; my (over) reaction tells me that. The transplant is such a game changer, do it or not, and to have to even discuss it without Sheri right there as my second pair of ears is disconcerting at the very least.

Canceling the appointment might have been an option, but everyone involved said “NO!” so fast, it never made it past the stupid idea stage. Nah. We gotta get this show on the road and the next phase begins with discussing the pros and cons of a stem cell transplant.

I watched a terrible move the other day called “Chained for Life” starring the Hilton Sisters (?)who played Siamese twins conjoined at the hip. One shoots and kills the other's louse of a husband and by default they both go on trial. The guy playing the judge appears at the very start of the movie saying, in effect, “We all have problems in our lives, but I'm sure after watching the following you might feel these women's problems probably makes yours seem small.”

The same judge guy came on at the end, after they had both been set free, by the way, and said, “I told you so. Yes, they're free, but are they ever really going to be free, bound to each other for life?”

Well, your honor, in your own incredibly ham-handed way you make have struck upon something, despite yourself. Our problems are our problems for a reason: so any growth we manage from dealing with them is our growth. It looks like we're looking at magic bean-type growth in the coming months, by the way.

Oh, and if I made that movie sound even remotely interesting? Forgive me. It isn't. Well, maybe the suspense of whether or not the accordion player would get his chest hair caught in the bellows...

There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere.”