Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cycle 4, Day 1: here we go!

We are now into the second half of Joe's chemo. I am aware of how ridiculous it is for me to say "we" when it is only Joe's poor body enduring this flood of chemicals, but truly this is a shared experience, not just his, not just his and mine, but also that of everyone we know and love who is along with us on this crazy, unexpected ride.

Today was another amazing experience at Kaiser. I, we, continue to be floored by the quality of the care, by the humor and compassion of the nursing staff. And they're just so much fun it's ridiculous. We spent the first hour of chemo today sitting with our nurse Susan as she regaled us with stories of her repeat visits to Thailand. For eight years she has gone to the same place for a month each year, with her husband and friends, and climbed, dived, snorkeled, eaten and chilled. Between checking Joe's vital signs and making her rounds of other patients, she filled a page in my notebook with her instructions for a perfect visit to West Railay Beach, the places we should eat, where we should stay, what not to miss. It was such a boon to travel with her, via her photos on the web, to a beautiful beach and turquoise water, filling us with longing and excitement for the adventure that we have so handsomely earned in this extremely difficult year.

Joe's regular doctor was gone for the holiday, but his replacement was amazing, stunning us with how much he knew about music, about cycling. He managed to build an almost instantaneous bond of trust with Joe by making these very subtle references (Pyrenees, criteriums, funky bass), to the point where I believe he has supplanted the original doctor in our affections. Honestly, these medical professionals caring for Joe model the very best treatment you could dream of. How great is that?

And of course, I can't let this moment go without mentioning how grateful I am to Kaiser in general. That for the amount deducted from my check pre-tax each month to cover my little family, I am able to walk out of the pharmacy with a shot valued at $3,721 for just $30. Following a specialized course of lymphoma chemo that is probably valued at close to $12K for just $40. I have loved Kaiser's clever "Thrive" ad campaign (can't not love something with Allison Janney as narrator), but honestly the receipt for the shot is all the ad they really need. Get quality, loving care for a price that won't put you in the street when the stress of having a life-threatening illness is bad enough. I know that's no tag-line, but it sure rings true to me. To us.

It's with a very full heart that I watch my bald husband drowsily watch tv this afternoon, so so grateful for everything that is promoting his recovery from this crap. Big, big thank you to our nurses, to our doctors, to our family and to our friends. The finish line is in sight.

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