Where The Popsicles Are-18

Radiation over, homeward bound.

“Drugs are not always necessary.  Belief in recovery always is.”  ~Norman Cousins

Norman Cousins, the author of “Anatomy of an Illness,” details in his book a unique partnership between him and his doctor, a partnership that help him overcome a crippling disease. Cousins was the editor of Saturday Review, one of my favorite magazines in the 50‘s and 60‘s. He was editor of the literature and arts magazine until 1972.

Joanie had never heard of Norman Cousins, nor had she read his book, or knew what Saturday Review was, but she knew instinctively the truth of his statement, especially the last five words. She knew it without ever having verbalized it, at least to me.

Her partnerships, she had two, were now with Dr. Linda Carson and Dr. Kathyrn “Katie” Dusenbery at the University of Minnesota Hospital, and she was going to do her part as patient to see that these partnerships worked. My job was to help her do her part, and do the worrying for both of us, but keep the latter to myself.

Come Monday morning, we’re back in Minneapolis at the hospital. We met with Katie, and they took Joanie down to get her ready for her second radiation implant and another three days in the hospital. She wasn’t looking forward to it, but now that the end of treatment was in sight, she wanted to get it over with.

The procedure was the same as for the first one, and when the brought her up to her room on 7C, they brought up the lead shield as well. The physicists came, and got her situated, and the clock started on the implant. Dose and time were all factored into the treatment. This time, however they left out the mirror and I found that I wouldn’t have to sit in the hall to talk to a mirror while she lay flat on her back, not moving for three days. Now, I would be allowed in her room for brief periods during the day. One of the nurses would give me the badge they wore to measure exposure to radiation and a record would be made as to time spent. I was told I could sit in a chair and to not get to close to her during my brief visits, but at least it was an improvement over the first time.

Joanie appreciated being able to look at me face to face rather than talking to my reflection, and I think it reduced her stress level too. She was also able to take phone calls, and hearing from friends from time to time helped as well. She never really complained, until it go close to the time when they would remove the ovoids and catheters and she could get out of there. Of course, she would only complain to me, not the nurses or doctors. That was another part of my job. I was to be the one she could vent to without fearing she would offend anyone.

Joanie made it through the last day of the implant, and when we left the hospital she was feeling so good she suggested we go to Sally’s for a celebratory glass of wine. Sally’s, was a restaurant near campus, where we went a lot, just two short blocks from the hospital parking ramp. There, I could see on her face the release of tension now that she had made it through the toughest part of treatment, and there were only five more daily sessions to go. She ordered another celebratory glass, and it was obvious to me that her belief in her recovery was stronger than ever.

We began to make a plan, since those five treatments would take us into the following week, and right then, we had two cars down there. We agreed I would leave the following day, and would fly down the day of her last treatment to drive her back home. She was now getting excited about being done and being able to get back home to her kittie’s, her job and her friends.

Joanie picked me up at the airport on the last day of her treatment. We went for the treatment, and when it was done, she made an appointment with both Dr. Carson and Dr. Dusenbery for follow up exams in a month and a half. We went to pick up her stuff at Ginny’s, and say good bye to Ginny, Ed and she her three-legged friend, Piper.

She was not going to stay another night. She wanted to get on the road home, and she wanted to do it right now. That’s what we did, and this time the trip back home didn’t seem like it was all that long. She was just excited to be on I-94 headed west, and I don’t think she stopped smiling for the next 6 1/2 hours.

It had been a long time since May 7th, when all of this started, and she was ready for the pressure to be off for a while.


About Bob Kallberg

Retired reporter. Concentrating now on recounting Joanie's 12 year battle with cancer, a battle she waged with extreme courage, determination and an indomitable spirit, that, for me, serves as an example.
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