The Philly Chronicles – Trek 6 (out of 10 mandated to complete the first phase of treatment – 5 for actual treatment. Clinical trials are not easy work.)
People often tell me they pray for me. I figure that is good because any pull with any gods can’t hurt my situation. I, myself, am fairly nebulous in my belief system. Raised an atheist, it always seemed hard to develop an otherworld view that included throned figures in the clouds. On the other hand, I have never seen the value in discrediting options. If it ends up there is an actual heaven and hell, I am quite sure where I want to go. Wouldn’t it be lovely to be surprised with Elysian Fields showered in sunlight or a new home amongst such billowing clouds?
A recent study revealed people who prayed for others benefited themselves, a nice outcome, albeit less for the person prayed for. In my agnostic way – open to everything, rejecting little – when folks offer to pray for me, I thank them sincerely.
On the plane this last trek my seat companion was a former seminarian. He introduced himself with handshakes to both seatmates, he helped out every distressed passenger within reach and when he realized my sorry plight he offered to pray for me and I said, “how nice.” I was not ready for what came next. Glasses removed, hands held out palms up, with the voice of an almost priest he intoned a most respectful prayer for my best outcomes. It felt a bit like Reiki. I loved the caring but was quite conscious of the odd scene. (An almost priest’s voice is trained to carry and a plane is rather small.)
And so I started this trip prayed over, a quality way to deplane to the “extreme heat emergency” that gripped the Philadelphia area. The nighttime lows were projected at 82 degrees. The daytime highs with humidity were in the low 100s. Philadelphia is not a green city. Parks are few and trees scattered about creating a slight canopy. It is a city of concrete.
The heat emergency cramped my style emotionally and actually. I have never tolerated humidity well. With an excessively fair constitution I have learned to dodge sun from an early age. I always mean to buy a parasol (wherever do you get them?) but an umbrella works just fine when I have no choice but to walk in the heat of the day. And so I marched around Philadelphia with the exception of one late afternoon commute where I hopped a bus for an air-conditioned ride home.
The treatments themselves roll along, the less thought about the better. The chemo leaves more nausea then I am used to and the big needles to the groin lymph nodes well, really, could they ever be pleasant. This is just what I do when in Philly.
I am now over the half way mark – two more treatments at both ends of August, and then two close out visits in September mark the formal end of Phase One but not of Penn treatments. What comes next was a topic of conversation with the staff there this visit. I would presumably go into either maintenance therapy once a month until the vaccine material runs out in a year or Phase Two, which is a little more dramatic then I had understood. Phase Two kicks off with three days of back-to-back chemo, then two days of shots, then a transfusion of my jacked up t-cells extracted during my second Apherisis scheduled for September 16th, 2013. I would then resume the every 2 ½ week travel cycle for an unknown period of time. Currently, entry to Phase Two is by waiting list and triaged need, as they are at capacity. I find out in late September, post a day of testing, which route is seen as best for me. If I go the maintenance route, when and if I recur, I automatically start Phase Two procedures.
Since returning home to Oregon’s lovely summer temperatures with no humidity, I have watched Philadelphia mellow out with nighttime lows dipping to 61. I have not had great travel luck. I should focus on the big things (please cancer, go away!) but honestly the small things matter, too – flight delays and egregious weather. If you cast a prayer my way perhaps you can take the big and the small into account. I continue to use my favorite prayer, the serenity prayer, to remind myself to let go.