Chemo Update: It's About Love September 14, 2011

Friends and Family,

I started chemo a week ago, and people have been asking how it's going. It's going great now, but we got off to a rocky start.

Last Thursday, the day chemo began, we started out meeting with the oncologist. He began the exam by telling us that my insurance company had approved use of two of the chemo meds, but denied the third. That's when my sweet, loving, gentle Genevieve showed a side of her that you would never know she posessed.

Have you ever walked by a car in a parking lot with a dog inside that has to defend his territory from lurking menaces such as you walking by? That little three-pound chihuahua attacks the glass again and again, teeth bared, just knowing that if he leaps at that glass one more time he is going to break through and tear off your face. As you circle behind that car and slide over to your car door, this little pup that is no bigger than a pastry snack looks more like 90 pounds of muscular pit bull. The glass starts looking a little more vulnerable. As the saying goes, it's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog. And YOU know he can't break the glass, but you keep eyeing all the car windows, sizing up the openings, just to make sure a maniac dog on steroids can't squeeze through.

All this to describe Genevieve in the doctor's office. She made it clear that she was angry with the insurance company, not the doctor. Still, the doctor leaned back ever so slightly, then glanced over at the door. He looked as if he was wondering whether the car windows were rolled up far enough. I suggested to him that we start all three meds, and sort out the insurance later. He immediately agreed to the plan, still with one eye on Genevieve. That's my little lotus blossom in action!

The rest of the day was comparatively uneventful. We sat in a semi-private area on the seventh floor of OHSU's Knight Cancer Center on the South Waterfront. As they changed chemo drip bags off and on throughout the day, I meditated and Genevieve did her artwork. I also looked out the window and thought about the beautiful views, and the value of the condos in the surrounding buildings. What else would you expect a broker to think about?

At the end of the day my oncologist came back in and informed us that he had written a lengthy letter of justification for the third med to the insurance company, along with fourteen pages of documentation. I am very appreciative of the doctor's willingness to take such a strong stand. To me, this is an extraordinary step, and one that he won't get compensated for. However, I am even more grateful for Genevieve's pit bull advocacy. I don't think that third med would have happened if not for her.

Here's how the chemo has gone since Thursday:

Friday - Feeling fine all day, steroids keeping my energy up and the nausea at bay. Food tastes a little funny in the evening.
Saturday - Taste buds almost completely gone. Nausea, gagging on water, try to find anything I can get myself to eat so I don't lose weight. Take a short nap.
Sunday - Same, but longer nap.
Monday - I can eat again! Work half a day, go home and nap.
Tuesday - Nearly normal again.

Chemo sessions are three weeks apart. Next week I'll have low energy and a high risk of infection, then gradually return to normal before repeating the cycle. I'll have four rounds and then a CT scan. If the cancer is shrinking, I'll have two additional rounds. If not, I'll stay off chemo until they see CT scans that show the cancer growing again. Then they'll try a different chemo cocktail.

A friend of mine, Keith, called the other day and asked what Geneveive was doing to cope. I told him about the different gifts that she is creating for me: New artwork designed for healing, meditating, using crystals, and more. He summed it up in a stunningly straightforward way: "It's all love."

And he's right. It's all love. Pit Bull Advocacy, art work, the prayers and positive energy you are sending me, the cards, the emails, the questions, the soup. It's all love, and it makes as much difference, or more, than the chemo. Thank you all for your gifts of love. They are what will keep me alive.