Road to a Stem Cell Transplant – Part 2
My trip to the city each day is usually an interesting event. There are about 10 of us who ride the same train together, talking mainly sports, the stock market or politics. While there are ten regulars there are a group of others who ride with the group less frequently. This particular morning, a nurse from a major cancer center happened to be in our group. I had never talked to her at any length in the past but grabbed the seat next to her this particular morning.
By the time we arrived at the city, we had exchanged email addresses and phone numbers. She asked me to email her the basic details, as we discussed. By that evening I received one of the most eloquently worded letters I had ever read, from this same nurse. Without saying anything really bad about the hospital I had just exited, she more then convinced me that I needed to switch hospitals. That T_Cell Lymphoma was very rare and nothing to play around with. She had already got me hooked up with the top doc, if I wanted to come in, for at least a 2nd opinion.
The following day was my followup with the local hematologist oncologist. It couldn’t have been orchestrated any better to convince me that my nurse friend was correct. First off, the doctor was over an hour late. The physical layout of the operation was depressing, at best. You could see to the back that there was one infusion room that looked more like a ward with the patients cancers running the whole gamut, not just lymphoma. I mentioned earlier that Non-Hodgkin T-Cell was rare but its even a bit rarer then rare… only 6000 cases per year. Spread that number among all the 3500 hematologists in the country, and… you get the point.
When I finally got in to see the doctor, she was very matter of fact…. treatment starts tomorrow… chop chop.. let’s go. She actually got pissed when I said I wanted to get a 2nd opinion. She said, “I already got a second opinion and he agrees with me”. Wow… get me the …. out of here. No, I think I’d like to get my own 2nd opinion… no offense… Please send the slides and charts to……….. I told her I’d get back to her but I think it was pretty clear in her mind that I wasn’t coming back…. unless I got a job with UPS and was delivering packages.
I showed up at the cancer center on a Tuesday afternoon. My doctor was the head of the whole lymphoma department. There was a whole building dedicated to lymphoma treatment. The waiting room reminded me of a cross between Yankee Stadium and the Port Authority bus terminal. It was actually somewhat comforting that everywhere you looked were people associated with lymphoma or other liquid tumors. Of course I was hoping that when they reread the biopsy slides I was going to be told I had an exotic infection of some sort and would be referred to an infectious disease doctor and everything would be cleared up with a few more rounds of antibiotics.
That thought lasted about 8 seconds, in between the new doctor saying “Hello, my name is” and “You have Non-Hodgkin s T_Cell Lymphoma. It’s very rare, very aggressive but not completely untreatable. Mmmmmm… ok. So… what’s the plan, doc? Well, we use high doses of chemo and if your body can take it… and it works… then you get a stem cell transplant. Wow… is that all? Oh… and as a bonus, I’ll knock that MS out too if we get that far? I read that same article, I replied trying to have my cockiness offset the doctor’s cowboy like presentation. After short pause, I said… “When do we get started?” Next Tuesday at 230….
End Part 2