Day: May 15, 2015

The Bends

When will it officially be over? July 7th? That is the day scheduled for Dylan’s full-body CT scan. Or, is it over now? With most illnesses it’s easy: You get sick, you get better, it is over, but cancer lurks in the dark.

The past two weeks have been strange. I have returned to work, Dylan has recovered slowly on his own, and all of us are trying to figure out when we can release the breath we have held for three months. It feels like I have been underwater the whole time and have suddenly surfaced. It hasn’t been easy. The tough part is over, the mental struggle has begun.

Wednesday, Dylan and I traveled to Seattle for a scheduled appointment and his final LP (lumbar puncture, aka a spinal shot, aka the thing that always takes two hours longer than promised). Two weeks ago, when Dylan rang the bell signifying the end of treatment, we didn’t know about the final LP so it we were a little surprised we had another treatment, but like everything else on this strange trip we showed up for the appointment knowing it had to be done.

We arrived at the Swedish Cancer Center early and Dylan slept in the car as I listened to the radio. He had been unable to sleep at all the night before. He was tired, he couldn’t sleep, and he didn’t want to talk about it. At 9:30 we wandered over to the second floor to get the blood draw. The office on the second floor is exactly what you think it would be, lots of bald people waiting silently in a large room with a big fish tank. One by one, names are called out, the patient stands up in that slightly bent way most people undergoing chemo do, and walks over to the nurse who takes them into a tiny area away from view. The draws are quick and the results are done within 30 minutes, so after Dylan’s draw we headed up to Dr. Pagel’s office on the 10th floor.

Upon arrival, Sonja (Dr. Pagel’s nurse) hustled us back to the examining room where his vitals were checked and we talked about how things were going. He didn’t say much. It had been a tough few days. Dylan had to have a transfusion of platelets and red blood last week, but our expectations for a “good” day have changed a great deal in the last three months. Sonja remarked that Dylan looked better than he did last week. She did her best to pick up his spirits but the combination of lack of sleep and unstated dread over-ruled any positive energy anyone placed within ten feet of Dylan.

The Nurse Practitioner came in to look under Dylan’s hood and kick his tires. She remarked about how well he was recovering and then the blood results came in and they were FANTASTIC. Dylan wouldn’t need to get a platelet transfusion. He could stop taking is antibiotics and he didn’t need to get any more shots in his belly each night…he was done with all that, and then I asked, “When you say, ‘Done,’ what does that mean?” She wasn’t sure how to answer. “We have two months before he has his full body CT scan. That’s a long time to wait…what does your experience tell you? Did this work?” Dylan shook his head and plugged his ears, he didn’t want me to ask these questions.

She paused and then said what one might expect, “We can never be sure…yada yada yada…but the way that everything has gone points to a successful treatment. You need to keep an eye on things in the next two months but you can start to do things you did before.”

“He can lift weights?”

“Yes, don’t overwork yourself, start slowly. Your bone marrow is young and has recovered remarkable fast. All indicators are that you will have a full recovery.”

I could have danced around the room at that time, but my German blood only allowed me to say, “Good.”

No doubt the next two months will have some challenges, but if there is one life lesson to take away from all of this it is to live in the now and not to worry about tomorrow. We can spend the next two months treating Dylan like a precious piece of china, or we can live life fully and enjoy these two months of unknown.

We left the office and headed over to the outpatient surgery area on the 4th floor. We got in the elevator with a few other people and pushed the four button. A doctor got on and pushed the button for the 12th floor. The familiar light illuminated at the 12 and I felt an emotional tug, Dylan must have felt it also because as the elevator started up, Dylan tapped my arm, “Let’s go up to the 12th.”

The doctor overheard him, “They really like that,” she said.

So we went up to the 12th. To where this whole thing started. To where we spent all those days. We got off the elevator, turned the corner toward the nurses’ station, and saw Nicole. She saw Dylan, “Oh my gosh,” she shouted and then this happened.

Nicole giving Dylan a little love.

Nicole giving Dylan a little love.

And that’s where I’m going to leave it, on the 12th floor of Swedish hospital. The hospital where Howie Myers was born and Dylan was cured of cancer.

The Stars of this three-month journey

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Dylan and Joanna.

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Kelly reads Dylan’s armband while Gretchen matches the chemo.

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Shantel, Dylan, and a vomit bag.

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