Wednesday, July 1, 2015

I'm not shipping off to Boston

We didn't have to go to Boston this week. That was a wonderful thing.

Let me clarify a little. When I say, we didn't have to go to Boston, I really mean we didn't have to “go to Boston.” Big difference at our house.

Sheri and I used to really like Boston. It was only three-plus hours away and more like San Francisco (our favorite) than any other city on the East Coast. OK. We have visited every city on the East Coast. Let's just say we've visited enough to consider it... But this isn't a travel piece, so let me return to the point.

To us, though, going to Boston no longer means the science museum, the aquarium, Fenway Park, or even “Cheers.”

“Going to Boston” means an arduous three-plus hour trip at the end of which are difficult memories, often unpleasant news (though not lately), and very, very poor-tempered drivers. I mean poor-tempered. I once got honked at while sitting in traffic for leaving too much space between myself and the car in front of me. Since we hadn't gone anywhere in at least five minutes, I was almost compelled to leave my car and go ask the driver behind us what the point was. “Don't do that,” Sheri said. “He could have a gun.” I don't think she was joking.

If you're going to be coming to Boston this summer, or just to get true horror stories about driving in Boston, talk to Sheri. She did it a lot more than I did. I was sitting safe and secure in my hospital room most of the time. Woops/ Not a travel piece.

So, anyway, most of my cancer care is, and always have been, done at the Alfond Cancer Center in Augusta (technically the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care), about 25 minutes from home. As you have read me say repeatedly, the care is wonderful. But the head guy on my oncology team is based at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute which is in.... right! Boston.

It would be a reach to say I like going to the Alfond Center. After all, you do have to have cancer or be with someone who does, to go there on a regular basis. But, to insert of Bostony-”Cheers”y sort of reference, everybody knows your name, at least in the areas we visit on a regular basis. Also, it rarely seems crowded,. They even bring in care dogs once in a while to help everyone feel better.

The Dana Farber is, likewise, a terrific facility, one of the best in the country, but it is sooooo big. For much of my life, I was a city mouse. I went to New York City every chance I got and would have gladly lived there. Slowly but surely, though, I have become a country mouse. And I like it. We have our little country house on a country lake in the country. The library is open ten hours a week and the post office closes for lunch. It's everything we need. Travel piece?? Don't care.

We get to the Farber Institute and we have to fight traffic and people on foot just to get in. Then, there are people everywhere... and a tremendous number of them are sick!!! I'm still not supposed to be around large numbers of people, especially if they are sick, because of the way my immune system was compromised by my stem cell transplant. Granted, most of the clients aren't the type of ill that is liable to cause an infection, but let me tell you... sitting amongst about 80 people waiting for a blood draw at any given time, there's an awful lot of uncovered-mouth coughing and not-a-tissue-in-sight sneezing for this immune-compromised country mouse. Style-purists- I realize that there are way too many hyphens in that sentence. I'm just not skills-level capable enough to help myself.

As we move through the halls, the memories drop by to say howdy. The apheresis machine room, the surgical area where my Hickman line was put in, the walkway to the Brigham and Womens Hospital where my stem cell transplant was actually done and on and on and on. Again, it's much worse for Sheri because she had to find her way through the halls a lot more than I did., but still... There wasn't much fun to be had for either of us and... nobody knew our name.

So I didn't have to go this time because my cancer is behaving itself and I already have an appointment locally in a couple of days for my monthly check up. I called the Farber and asked and all agreed the trip was unnecessary for now. Will we have to make the trip again? Almost certainly, but not now and, we hope, not for a while. We can put that one in the win column.

Who knows. Maybe we'll even put going to Boston back on our list of fun things to do. Hey, it could happen.

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.”