Wednesday, March 10, 2010 7:24 PM, PST
My horoscope today — You may feel as if you’ve exhausted your magic, but nothing is further from the truth. You are at a crucial turning point today as Mars turns direct in your 6th House of Work. Your dreams continue to be bigger than life, yet day-by-day they will seem to inch away from the night and out into the light of day. Keep the faith; you are closer to success than you realize.
Reno is insane. Slot machines at the airport gates, more smokers than I’ve ever seen in my life (some wheeling oxygen tanks; I’m not kidding), huge casino-cities with their own banks, bowling alleys, and Starbucks inside. It’s the twilight zone. I would never have come here if not for the cancer treatment.
The day started with the slowest taxi driver on the face of the earth. He read over the directions I gave him to the clinic about seven times, mumbling to himself. My mom and I were super-anxious and rolling our eyes at each other. When we got to the complex of medical buildings, he wouldn’t listen to us pointing out which one to go to, and instead spent 10 minutes driving around in the cul de sacs of the parking lot. I was ready to grab the wheel and push him out, but my mother restrained me.
At the clinic we waited a long time. Many very sick patients in the waiting room. Most seem to have had chemo prior to coming here, as they had no hair. The receptionist made copies of my reams of medical records and gave me back the originals. They were playing Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” VERY loudly, and one of the sickest looking patients finally shouted out; “Does anyone else think this is too loud?” We are agreed and then another guy got volunteered to tell the receptionist, who obligingly turned down the music. That seemed to break the ice. There was a couple from Boston, a guy from New Jersey… people from all over. Several “veterans” of the Forsythe treatment assured us newbies that we were in good hands.
The wait dragged on and on. I thought of my friend Adrienne who has a self-imposed limit of 20 minutes waiting in doctors offices, then she leaves, no matter what. I knew I couldn’t do that, having flown in from Portland and Mom flying in from Cleveland, but I was sorely tempted to run.
A mother and daughter pair came in. Mother pale and thin, daughter vibrant and healthy looking with great curly hair. Mom and I placed bets on who was the patient. It was the daughter. Breast cancer, of course. We got to talking and I admired her pluck. She was coming here after just her first set of biopsies and diagnosis. They wanted her to have a mastectomy and she would have none of it. Right on. I wish I had known more two years ago at the start of my journey. Every biopsy and surgery I’ve had just served to spread the cancer around, and now I’m at Stage IV. Colleen and her mom were surprised when I told them that. “You look so healthy”, they said. Yup. I know. She was from West Virginia, 37, had $150,000 in college loans, and was borrowing the $20,00 for this treatment from her family. Her mom (who is originally from County Wicklow, Ireland, and speaks with a lovely lilt) flew in from Colorado to join her. <
She talked about how wanting to sue her doctors for putting titanium clips inside her breast. I didn’t tell her how many I’ve had… and all the horrible, painful, radioactive injections – one in the nipple in NY – and cancer-causing MRIs, CT scans, and dozens of mammograms. If I hadn’t already had cancer, these things would surely have given it to me. It’s barbaric.
Sometimes I can’t believe this is really happening, like I will wake up and just be better. I mean, seriously, how could I have CANCER?
When I finally met Dr. Forsythe he was no-nonsense, clipped as a Colonel (which he used to be, actually), and very knowledgeable. He examined my records and my breast, said he’d seen worse and he thought that I would do well with the treatment. I was actually more worried about my mom seeing the ugly red tumors clustered along the incision line than the doctor. I had avoided showing it to her at Christmas because I didn’t want to upset her, and now they were so much worse… I asked a few of my questions and got direct decisive answers: No to the oopherectomy/hysterectomy. Yes to the Lupron shot. Yes on Arimidex. Yes to the Zometa. Don’t worry yet about getting the mercury fillings removed, you can take a break from the Zometa later to do that. Double your Vitamin D to 10,000/day. Yes take the DIM for the cervical dysplasia. Possibly do Xeloda after the chemosensitivity test comes back from Germany, but it has to be done on a Monday or Tuesday, not today. Curcumin spray for the breast pain. No chemo. No radiation.
My mom and I were just catching our breath and gathering the rest of our questions when he abruptly left the room to order the supplements and tests he wanted. We thought he was coming back, but apparently he had gone to lunch! A nurse came in and took a hair sample to test for toxins. I was surprised at how big a hank she took and cut right to the scalp. Jeez. Now I have a bald spot on the back on my head. Oh well. I’ve always wanted to have this test done anyway, to test for toxicities, so – cool.
I then had blood drawn, and a long frustrating phone conversation with my Oregon medicaid about covering the blood tests. Turns out they won’t cover me for anything except life-threatening emergencies when travelling out of state. Um… I have Stage IV (termimal) breast cancer, is that life-threatening enough for ya? Apparently not. That’s when I cried for the first time all day. OK. They will send a fax to my Portland oncologist, who hopefully will do the blood testing for me. And I’m already holding an appointment for tomorrow to get the Lupron shot that will shut down my ovaries, so maybe I can get it all done at once. What fun. Then drive 2 hours home to Astoria.
The payment process was a little creepy. They don’t accept out of state checks! We worked it out. $500 for the consult, and $267 for the supplements and hair testing. My mom is amazingly generous to me… what would I do without her? I’d be doing chemo and radiation that would kill me, that’s what. I really want this treatment to work. It would be awful to spend all this money and then die of this stupid disease anyway. It occurs to me that this treatment costs exactly the same as the year of grad school that I just postponed in order to deal with my cancer. And I could get an unsecured Perkins loan for that, so how come they don’t have loans and grants for essential medical treatment? I make an appointment to return and begin the IV treatment April 19th.
OK, back in the cab. The reality that now I need to raise $20,000 – $40,000 by April 19th in order to DO what will probably save my life starts to become real to me. I am overwhelmed. We go to Whole Foods, eat chicken soup and vegetables (OK, and some bread, half a cookie, and some macaroni and cheese – all of which I’m not supposed to have – no wheat), and then get the cab driver to drive us around the neighborhood a little and try to suss out where I might stay for three weeks. This is a GREAT cab driver. He’s from NY, of course. Brentwood. And he drives fast and knows where he’s going. Yay.
Back at the hotel, I really collapse. I think the stress and the energy it takes for my body to keep fighting this tumor are cumulative. I rest awhile, till it gets dark, and then we go downstairs for dinner. There’s a live band playing awful 70s song in the casino – inescapable. Faux-Mexican food. Blech. Then I play a slot machine, just to say I did. I chose one with a Native-American wolf theme, in honor of Mark and of a dream I had a few days ago that I was zipping myself into a wolfskin preparing for battle. I lose seven dollars really fast. Time for bed. Alarm set for 5:30 am to catch my flight.