Friendship and kindness are wonderful comforting companions when you're traveling an unwanted journey.
Today, after arriving home from an 8-hour session at the Grand River Regional Cancer Centre's chemo suite, a package was waiting for me from a friend. He had arranged for a dedicated, signed copy of Neil Peart's book Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road: "To Don. Good luck on the 'Healing Road'. All the best, Neil Peart." The gift came just when I was feeling completely overwhelmed with the start of my chemotherapy.
Eight hours in the chemo suite is more than enough. But it culminated with a "baby bottle" of 5-FU and watching another patient in tears being comforted by a family member. It hit me all of a sudden that there were too many stories in that room, too many people facing very difficult circumstances. Earlier in the afternoon, for example, as I returned from the washroom wheeling my pole with the drugs being infused into my PICC line, another patient commented on my LIVESTRONG wrist band. He too had one. We talked about both being on palliative chemotherapy, the value of Lance Armstrong's work for cancer patients, and the need to maintain our strength and optimism. Just a couple moments when strangers tend towards friendship.
My nurse today was very kind and considerate, as was my wife of course. Kindness doesn't just come from friends. It comes from family members and nursing staff. Wednesday, my parents brought me another inspirational book when they came for a visit. My brother joined them just because he wanted to see me before chemo began too.
Friends and family members continue to write - "thinking of you" email notes, humorous items, election results post mortems, even dietary and travel destination recommendations. It's all about kindness. That too is sometimes overwhelming, a kind of compensating weight on balancing scales - treatment on one side, comforting relationships on the other.
Tipping the scale can happen at any time. In fact, it's inevitable. And then the tears come...some from sadness, some from gratitude, some from laughter, some from weariness, some even from recognition and commiserating with others traveling similar paths.
Just a few medical details for those interested...
CEA - 9.8, up another 2 points
Liver lesions - the 2 visible ones have grown about a centimetre to 4 cm each.
PICC line insertion - the standard insertion technique didn't work, leaving a large bruise on my right biceps; even the medical imaging procedure required two attempts on my left-arm biceps with 2 doctors and 3 nurses (very sore)
Avastin and Irinotecan treatment - not much of an initial reaction today other than trouble focusing (couldn't drive back home) and some obvious chemo-brain thinking and speaking (noticed by both the attending nurse and my wife - "Gee, Don, when did you get so stupid!")
Laparotomy incision - healing nicely; starting to shower the area directly now with the steri-strips starting to come off under the water; regaining some core muscular control, although it's slow going