I’ve been on a drug regimen of thalidomide and steroids since January. (Yes, THAT thalidomide) I also take a blood thinner to counteract the tendency of these drugs to cause blood clots. For those who know me, this is a unique experience. I’ve always enjoyed good health. I’ve never, until this year, required medication other than the occasional painkiller.
This drug combo is effective. All of my lab results since I began treatment indicate that the abnormal plasma cells are diminishing. Unfortunately, the abnormal cells tend to return and eventually develop a resistance to treatment.
The side effects of these drugs are annoying. The thalidomide causes numbness in my feet and fingers and sometimes even my tongue and lips. The steroids cloud my vision and make me emotional. One drug causes constipation; the other gives me a ravenous appetite, a bad marriage of side effects if ever there was one. Thalidomide acts like a sedative while the ‘roids’ drive me with a frenzied distracted energy. I am on a drug yoyo.
A thorny issue that comes with a cancer diagnosis is how to tell people. Who needs to know and when is the best time? I’ve already made some mistakes. One friend from high school, who I am in touch with only occasionally but who I care for very much, called to tell me he had become a grandfather. Before he could break the news, however, he asked what was new with me. So, innocently, I told him, and then when I discovered the purpose of his call, I felt like a fool for having taken the air out of his balloon. As I stumble along, I’m learning there is no “right way” to share the news.
Sunday, my wife and I will travel to Seattle. Monday we move into an apartment at the Pete Gross House. The PGH was built to serve patients undergoing cancer treatment at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Families come from everywhere to take advantage of the SCCA’s transplant programs. Because treatment is lengthy and because patients need a caregiver, housing is a significant concern. The PGH was established to address this need. It is close to the SCCA and provides a shuttle service to the clinic every 20 minutes.
The apartments are basic but fully furnished. More importantly, we will have a new peer group who can relate to our dilemma. Each of the apartments houses a family that is coping with cancer and, most likely, undergoing a transplant. Hence, the awkwardness of asking one another what’s new will lead to a pragmatic discussion of our illnesses. This may allay some of the isolation caused by cancer. For, even though we haven’t met, we already know something about each other.