From the Front Line

The Big C. No, not that one, Chemotherapy!

To those of you who may not know I was diagnosed this past April with “Classic Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.” In the world of cancer, a relatively easy one to beat. In the process of staging it, the Doctor’s discovered through a “PET Scan” that I also have 3rd stage advanced esophageal cancer.

This is far more aggressive than Lymphoma and because of that they opted to treat it first using both Chemo and Radiation.

In my previous article I detailed my experience with Radiation. I had my 18th treatment today BTW. So far so good though I have noticed as of yesterday some residual soreness when eating which I now have a prescription to deal with.

I’ve held back on talking about Chemo until now because my results may very well not be typical and I wanted to be certain that my reaction was consistent.

Before I go any further I must give credit to a close friend and Cancer survivor, her name is Karin and we’ve been friends since Grammar School.

She advised me from the start how critical in one’s overall treatment it is to establish a good relationship with your Oncologist. At the very least you should be comfortable with them and like them. More importantly they need to like, and most importantly care about you. They need to see you as a person, not a patient, as someone unique. These Doctors see thousands of people. So then, how do you make yourself stand out from the crowd?

Sadly the answer is ridiculously straight forward, treat them with respect. That doesn’t mean you have to kiss anyone’s ass, it simply means treating them the same way you would want to be treated. A little kindness goes a long way.

Also, you must be your own advocate. Do not be afraid to speak up and let the Physician know your concerns. In my case I’d heard far too many horror stories of people being deathly ill for days following Chemotherapy, which nearly made me opt out altogether. The “cure” sounded as bad if not worse than the disease.

So, when I met with my Oncologist for the first time I told him exactly that. He heard me, and acted accordingly. Two weeks prior to my first treatment he gave me an anti nausea patch. It stated that it works for five days. I can attest that indeed it does. It was called a Sancuso. I thought it was quite nice of him to do that for me. It wasn’t until I spoke with his nurse to ask about getting a prescription for it that I realized exactly what he’d done.

The nurse laughed when I mentioned it and said my insurance wouldn’t cover it but told me not to worry there were other ways the nausea could be dealt with.

I took her at her word, hung up, then proceeded to do some research.

One Sancuso patch costs 750 dollars, with insurance the price drops to a ridiculously low 530 dollars.

My Oncologist’s office only gets two samples of these in a month, if they’re lucky. Yet he thought enough of me, as a person, and felt it was important enough to put my mind at ease, that he gave me the last one he had left.

When I met with my dietician and mentioned it, she was shocked. She said those are reserved for extreme cases. She was amazed I’d been given one. Not to say that third stage cancer isn’t bad, but there are others far worse off than myself.

I will go into detail about my experience with Chemotherapy in the next installment but if I impart nothing else to anyone facing Cancer, it is critical that I share this. Kindness costs nothing and it pays back exponentially. Yes you may be and probably are afraid, but unless they indicate otherwise by their behavior, your Medical team has your best interests at heart.

Do your research. In the age of the Internet there are reviews on every physician out there. However, unless you uncover something horrible, (in which case run), treat them with the respect they deserve.

Remember, they’re human just like you. They have families and problems like everyone else. Acknowledging that simple fact means more than you can know. If you make their lives easier, they will make yours better and while they’re obligated to treat you, they may not necessarily give you their best if you don’t give them yours.

To be continued…..

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