Air Cancer Flight 101 Comes in for Final Landing!

Paul Swanson, M.D., aka Wonder Doc, Our Pilot

PAUL SWANSON, MD, is Certified in Medical Oncology and Hematology by theAmerican Board of Internal Medicine. He completed his Fellowship in Medical Oncology and Hematology at The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. He received his Medical Degree and served his Internship and Residency at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. He received his undergraduate degree from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md.

June 2011 — Treatment recommendation: 3 chemo-therapy treatments, 5 weeks’ radiation x 5 days/week, 3 more  chemo-therapy treatments, 3 weeks apart. Yikes!

Thus began, during August, the saga of Air Cancer Flight 101 piloted by my Wonder Doc, Captain Paul Swanson, M.D., whose prowess at piloting I count as no less skilled than that of  Chesley B. Sullenberger of Hudson-River-Landing fame.

Dr. Swanson is one of those rare Docs who truly understands what it is to partner with his patient, who never is too busy to answer questions and who is completely devoid of the  arrogance sometimes found in otherwise competent and skilled medical practitioners.

His calm and caring demeanor managed to keep me aloft through 6 flights with no fear of swimming in the Hudson.  Medical schools would do themselves and all patients a great service if he could be cloned!

Believe me, the poor Doc learned early-on that the KH is not only a Googler, but also a questioner of the First Order.  While he may think to himself, in private, that I am possibly certifiable, he never once has yet demonstrated that in person 🙂

After chemo #2, I had the audacity to suggest that I might not necessarily go along with the radiation recommendation and asked if he had an alternative plan. He promptly agreed to do a CT scan after treatment #3, then consider an alternative based upon the results.

True to his word, the CT scan was ordered and based on the favorable results, we skipped (for the time being) the radiation and segued into chemo treatments 4 through 6.  To say that I appreciated this partnership is an understatement. The sixth and final voyage just sailed in for a successful final landing on November 30.

Now, the KH is not here to suggest that chemo is a cakewalk. Anyone who tells you that having blood drawn and IV’s inserted, taking steroids powerful enough to rival those of a Tour de France doper and dealing with side effects is fun — is either a liar or a masochist or both.  However! Given the tales of horror about chemo only some 10-15 years ago, I have few complaints 🙂

Aside from the apparent improvements in the whole process of chemo, my major lack of complaints is due to the corps of overworked, under-appreciated and, I’m certain, underpaid chemo Nurse Angels who served on each flight of Air Cancer 101.

These Ladies are a breed unto themselves. They deal, day in and day out, with very seriously ill patients, from very young to much older than even the KH.  They are so proficient in needle sticks that they are called to other parts of the hospital complex, once in awhile, when someone has a particularly-difficult vein to stick! Whereas as recently as March of this year I was somewhat of a needle phobic,  I can say that of about 18 or so sticks, only 1 was an “ouchie.” No lie!

In addition to administering the toxic chemicals, the crew of Nurse Angels must:  provide pre-treatment patient education to everyone, ensure the cleanliness of the facility (no, I”m not kidding here), make sure to follow protocol by checking each patient’s  name and birth date before  administering any IV-treatment and keep up with the medical status of each and every patient from one moment to the next to recognize when someone is having an adverse reaction — there were 3 such emergencies just during the times that I was there to observe.  As if all that isn’t enough, there is the obligatory charting to do on everyone every day.

The most remarkable thing, though, about these Nurse Angels, is their combination of compassion and good humor. Each one of them wears a smile 99.9% of the time, waits on you hand and foot (coffee? tea? a pillow? a warm blanket? a napkin? <the hospital still refuses to provide 1 stupid napkin in your lunch box>) as though you’re the only one there and just goes out of her way to demonstrate that she wants you to get better!

I would be remiss if I didn’t also make mention of Wonder Doc’s nursing and front-office staff and of the front-office staff at the Infusion Center who are as personable and proficient at their own jobs. They are akin to the check-in clerks at the airport whose role is not only to administer the paperwork and get you properly ticketed, but to also reassure those with fear of flying 🙂

In spite of the hundreds of patients they see on an ongoing basis, after only one or two visits they recognize you on sight, call you by name and go out of their way to be helpful. That’s an awfully nice touch!

Just prior to the last voyage of Air Cancer Flight 101, I was wondering how I would celebrate this milestone.  I thought it would be an exhilarating experience to finally be done with chemo! But I had a reaction that surprised me: I actually had a few teary moments to the point of needing Kleenex when I realized it was coming to an end. Startled a couple of nurses while I was at it — sorry, Ladies!

Upon consideration, I realize that it was because I would be saying my goodbyes to most of the crew of  one of the most remarkable and supportive groups of individuals I ever have had the privilege of meeting.  I hate goodbyes and I will miss each and every one of them.

So, to the crew of Air Cancer Flight 101, here’s to you! A million thanks and may God bless you and keep you as you continue to go about your work from day to day in your own inimitable fashion!  Wonder Doc won’t yet approve of any champagne for me, but as soon as he does I’ll lift a glass high 🙂

In about 2 weeks, there’ll be another CT scan and a bone scan that will see whether or not we schedule Air Cancer Flight 102 in the Radiation Suite.  I’m hoping for good results because I’m sure Wonder Doc would rather add someone new to his dance card at this point.

News at 11. I promise!

This entry was posted in Air Cancer, Cancer, Challenge, Chemotherapy, Doctors, Friendship, Gratitude, Health, Medical System and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Air Cancer Flight 101 Comes in for Final Landing!

  1. Lynne Favreau says:

    Candice, my spiritual doppelganger! Plug in my own Dr. Angus McIntyre and Co. and we’d have a matched set of doctors, staff and nurses. They truly are graces on this journey. It takes special people to help other through what is often the scariest ride they’ll ever board. Though I still get to see my nurses for port flushes once a month, I understand that let down at the end of treatment. Now I’m becoming attached to a whole new crew at radiation.

    I’m so comfortable with them, I started throwing my gown off halfway into the room while we were chatting. I was relating my Nano word count just standing there half naked, all three of them laughing at me, telling me I can keep it on till I’m laying on the table. I’m trying to overcome my shyness.

    Cheers to finishing chemo.
    XOX-from your pal.

    • cwc6161 says:

      Ja ja, Doppelganger 😉 Das ist gut, ja? lol…. I did look up the “let down thingie,” and it’s “normal,” as if anything on our journeys is normal!

      LOL love the visual, and I’m so glad you’re almost over that shyness…. Something about being hospitalized and then undergoing a sh*tload of treatments and follow-up just takes away any hint of shyness from most folks. Winning NaNo surely is a reason to strip nekkid, too !

      Thanks for the well-wishes, my writing bud and fellow cancer a** kicker! I’ll be lifting a glass or two on the 21st and will surely mention your name:)


  2. Archon's Den says:

    I passed a test??! How did that happen? I stayed up all night, studying for a blood test and failed.

  3. ClaireMcA says:

    Sounds like you were a good patient, getting involved in the process and being listened to is empowering and healing I am sure. What a wonderful Christmas gift, may the celebration and appreication continue.

    • cwc6161 says:

      I did try to be a good patient — but with a practitioner like Dr. Swanson, it didn’t require too much prompting. Thanks so much for the well-wishes, Claire!

  4. Archon's Den says:

    Two weeks and you don’t call? Was it something I said? You had me worried, my dear, but I see by this post that all was under the best of control. Congrats.

    It’s not about how far apart the holidays are. It’s all about how late in the weather, and how cold it is up here in penguin land. When the daughter marched in the parade, we stood on cold concrete for almost an hour. Damned near froze fingers, toes and other body parts. Before Sunday shopping, the proprietress of a book store who we’d known for years, took pity on us and let us stand inside, until her band showed up. Bad enough in the middle of October; I don’t think I’d want to do it at the end of November. It’s hard to be thankful when you’re outside, shoveling snow.

    • cwc6161 says:

      Oh, Arch, it was only a test…. and you passed 😉 Even time can’t separate us…. but, I knew that already!

      lol The Tale of the Frozen Bandsperson! I remember those days well, even though the Middle Ages are long past, when in Long Island, NY, we would attempt to march and to produce a sound somewhat akin to music when our fingers were frozen to our instruments and our feet had turned to blocks of ice! Band parents are a special lot, enduring extreme conditions of time, temperature — and wallet! — that creates a special place for them when the leave this mortal coil.

  5. Thanks so much for sharing your journey, Candice! You give others hope!

  6. wisdomofmoda says:

    Dearest Hermee, with tears in my near-sighted eyes I salute you and the “fight crew” (misspell intentional). May God bless and keep you all. And if God doesn’t mind I would like to end my salute by giving cancer “the finger” on your behalf. Love you to pieces.

    • cwc6161 says:

      LOL My darling Modaaaa! Thank you! Only you have sufficient grace to give cancer “the finger” and not immediately tumble into fire and brimstone. Your well-wishes always mean so much, ’cause I love you tooo!

  7. Gayle Swift says:

    Glad to hear you’ve arrived at your destination with your good humor and resilient spirit intact. Here’s wishing that your next flight is to some exotic locale where they serve pina colada’s, island music and sunrises that take your breath away. Dawn is always worth celebrating!

    • cwc6161 says:

      Oh Gayle, that does sound wonderful! I hereby appoint you my official Travel Planner — perhaps we could arrange this destination for our next FWA Conference? 🙂

  8. Delighted at the cause for celebration! Thanks for sharing your milestones.

    Hugs to you and your caregivers,

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