The year that was.
The year 2003, had begun with such hope and promise. Joanie was hard at work on the assumption that her boss, John Hoeven would be running for re-election next year, was approaching the magic five-year cancer free survival number, and what was most important, she was feeling good. Cancer had become an afterthought, with only a colostomy and a Miami Pouch as reminders of what she had been through over the last seven years.
The hope and promise that arrived in January would soon be blown away by the winds of a cancer that for the second time came back to threaten Joanie. This time in the form metastatic cancer, which meant lung surgery and chemotherapy. And now as we approached the end of the year, things were looking good. The monthly CT scans she had been taking showed an encouraging picture, and the chemo regimen hadn’t been nearly as difficult for her to handle as we had feared.
Joanie made it through the last two rounds of the clinical trial in the same manner she had made it through the first four, that is to say she did fine, all things considered.
The checkup in November with Dr. Carson before the fifth chemo round again showed that everything was looking good. The same can be said for the meeting in December prior to the last of the treatments. In Carson’s words from the December 3rd meeting with her, “She (Joanie) has continued to function well on chemotherapy with being able to maintain a full time job.”
The last infusion of the clinical trial took place in early December, and for Joanie it was a welcome one. She would be done after this one. She was feeling so good, that we had to bring boxes of her Christmas candy along on this trip. What that meant was I had a lot of work to do to get all the candy made before we left. There had to be enough boxes for the nurses at the Masonic Cancer Center infusion center, all of whom had come to know, and like, Joanie over the last five months, and there also had to be enough boxes for the folks at the clinic, from Dr. Carson and her nurses, to Marcia, the person I called Carson’s gatekeeper. Her good feeling wasn’t that she was looking forward to having another infusion, it had more to do with the fact it would be her last, and she wanted to leave something for the nurses at the infusion center and the clinic, the people who had been taking care of her all of this time. It was her way of saying thank you.
There would still be some blood work to watch for a few weeks, and there would be one more CT scan at the end of the month. To my mind, it would be an important one.
Getting and reading radiologists notes from CT scans, PET scans or MRI’s was another thing I learned during this process, and it is something that any caregiver can do. In my case, any time Joanie had a CT scan, or any other kind of scan, I would wait a day, and then call the nurse in the doctor’s office, in most cases, since the CT’s were done in Bismarck, that would be nurse Nancy in Dr. Bury’s office, and she would get me a copy of the radiologist’s dictation.
While initially it might look like Greek, it is still written in English, and there are keys to look for, such as toward the end of each scan you will see the word “Conclusion.” After that word you will see the radiologist’s impression from looking at the pictures. In any event, should you have any difficulty in interpreting what you are looking at, just asked the patient’s doctor.
The December 30th CT scan on Joanie’s abdomen said, “No evidence of recurrent or metastatic disease.”
That news gave us reason to have a grand celebration on New Year’s Eve that year, and we did.
So, despite the trouble visited on Joanie this year, the trouble over which she had prevailed, the hope and promise that had been there in January returned as we closed out one helluva year, and looked ahead to what we hoped would be a good one.
Joanie was already looking forward to putting the wig away for good.