The number that popped up on my cell phone did not surprise me. It was Dr. Ravi Verma, my oncologist. I knew why he was calling.
Mary Lou had grown tired of watching her big, strapping husband reduced to a useless pile of goo and had contacted him.
Dr. Verma asked how I felt. I croaked a weak reply.
It's been a week-and-half since my last chemo treatment and it appears that the post-apocalyptic effects of being deliberately poisoned have taken me to the bottom of a sickly sea. The previous two days had seen me falling deeper into an abyss of listlessness and ennui. I had never felt so sick.
Standing up left me dizzy and short of breath. I tried to write the other day but could not complete a single sentence.
Mary Lou and Dr. Verma had already arranged for an office visit. I was in no position to object.
I sat silently in the van as Mary Lou drove to the Kaiser facility in Parma. I had not been out of the house in more than a week.
At Dr. Verma's office, his head nurse sent me into the infusion center for an IV port and blood tests. The good doctor stopped by and quizzed me about my symptoms. My elevated heart rate and the tightness in my chest concerned him.
But I did take some assurance when he reported that it's not unusual for someone who has undergone simultaneous chemo and radiation to abide in this special corner of cancer hell.
A quick and long overdue note about Dr. Verma. I've never had a close relationship with a doctor before, which I guess is a good thing. He continues to impress.
The night of the blood clot incident, he came to the Cleveland Clinic (where he doesn't practice) to check on me and confer with the vascular surgeon. I've made some discrete inquiries. What he did that night was the norm.
“It's his life,” my source informs me. In journalism, some of us refer to the deeply committed as “true believers.” That's Ravi Verma, who takes vacations to his native India to treat the poor.
Dr. Verma sent me downstairs to the emergency room for more tests, including an EKG. To everyone's relief, they found nothing. My heart rate even dropped a bit.
Tests showed my blood counts are still far below normal. Dr. Verma came down and asked the ER docs to give me an injection of Neupogen, which stimulates production of white blood cells. It has nasty side effects, including intense bone and back pain, but if restores even a bit of energy, I don't care.
The ER docs wanted to hospitalize me. Dr. Verma intervened and said I should go home. (Quietly, he told Mary Lou and I that I shouldn't be needlessly exposed to all of the potential germs floating around hospitals these days.) Did I tell you how much I like Dr. Verma?
So home we went. I had a rough night, thanks to the Neupogen and prednisone, a steroid. But today (knock wood) I feel exponentially better. Completing a journal entry is ample evidence of that.
I could thank modern medicine, but my real gratitude goes to Mary Lou, who possesses a quiet certainty and the ability to take action when needed. Were it not for her, I'd still be on my freefall. I'm incredibly lucky to have her in my life.