Where The Popsicles Are-87

The first round.

Joanie was scheduled for her first round of chemo on the 14th of March, but before she could do that she had to have another port installed.

That duty would fall to Dr. William Altringer, a surgeon, who coincidently, was also my surgeon.

Seems, I had developed a problem that caused me some concern in late 2005 and into 2006. I was having difficulty swallowing, and all manner of negative thoughts were running through my mind. The year before, one of my best friends from my days in the Army, Al Adinolfi, had died from esophageal cancer in July of 2005. As you can imagine, my mind was playing all of the games on me that I had spent ten years hoping Joanie could avoid.

I finally had made an appointment with Dr. Doug Moen at Mid-Dakota, but I didn’t tell Joanie about it. I was more worried about her at that time, and didn’t want her to start worrying about me, which I knew she would.

I went to see Doug, and in a matter of minutes, he announced to me I had a goiter. I could have kissed him. Actually, I had an enlarged thyroid, that with more tests revealed it was basically done doing me any good. I think it was diagnosed as hypothyroidism.  He put my on Synthroid right away, and referred me to Dr. Altringer.

In the meantime, I went to the internet, and researched thyroid problems, including thyroid cancer. Here I was, doing what I had cautioned Joanie about doing, and that was borrrowing trouble. What I did find, was that even if it was a cancer, there was a good chance it was treatable.

My meeting with Dr. Altringer was basically for him to take a couple of fine needle biopsies of the thyroid to send to the lab so we had a better idea of what we were facing. He did tell me that surgery was in the picture depending on what they found. Up to this point, Joanie had no idea of what was going on with me, and that was the way I wanted it.

After they got the lab work back, Bill, as I came to call him, told me they found some “atypical cells.” That was a term I was familiar with from Joanies’ pap smears, and so I figured that since they weren’t cancerous, we had some time to deal with it. Bill suggested surgery, and I agreed, but that was before Joanie’s situation had gone from good to bad, so I told him we’d have to hold off on that. He did assure me I wasn’t in any imminent danger, and I told him I’d call him when I was ready to do it.

I finally got around to telling Joanie about it, and her first words to me, expressed quite firmly, were, “When were you going to tell me about this?” She was concerned, but I did my best to assure her I was fine, and the situation was under control, and when things with her had settle down, we’d talk about the surgery Altringer wanted to do. That seemed to ease her mind, but I think she was still worried about me.

The morning for the port-a-cath surgery dawned early. We had to be there at 7:00 A.M., and we were there. After the preliminaries were done, the procedure didn’t take that long, and after she came out of the light anesthetic they used to put her under we got her out of  the hospital.

The next thing on her plate that day was to be the first round of chemotherapy. She wasn’t looking forward to it, and in fact, wasn’t feeling that good in the first place. The port procedure didn’t help, but we had a couple of hours before she was to check in for the infusion.

We were anticipating much the same process she had undergone in 2003, when the same drugs were used during the clinical trial she had participated in. The only difference was this time she would be in the hospital overnight. So, checking into the hospital, she was escorted to a room on the top floor of St. Alexius, in the southwest corner of the building. The took all of their notes, and began hooking her up to an IV, since hydration was an important part of the process. Then came the other drugs. All of them had a time table assigned as far as how fast they were to be infused, and how long the time period for infusion would last. Mesna, the drug they figured would be difficult to be given outpatient was one of the first, but that was a drug that was meant to help avoid any bladder problems from the stronger chemo drugs.

Then came the first drug, and it was one I stayed around for. It was Ifosfamide, or Ifex as it was called, that had given her trouble during the infusions in 2003, and I wanted to be around when they were done with that one to see if there would be a recurrence. There was. She threw up, just as she had before, but after that, there wasn’t a problem. Ifex, would be followed by infusions of Taxol and carboplatin, just as before, and she seemed to tolerate them well.

She wasn’t happy being there, but had resigned herself to staying overnight. I would take breaks, going home for a while, and returning to stay with her. She wasn’t feeling nauseous, but wasn’t feeling 100 percent either. Around ten o’clock that night, I kissed her good night, and told her I’d see her in the morning, and bring her a Starbucks. She seemed to like that idea.

I went home that night feeling okay about what had gone on so far, but also knowing that tomorrow would be the test, and that test included avoiding nausea. She had handled it in 2003, and my hope was this would be a repeat.


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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