As some of you may know, Air Cancer Flight 101 (my euphemism for the chemotherapy treatment I underwent during 2011) made its sixth and final flight on November 30.
Originally, I was to have undergone three chemo treatments, three weeks apart, followed by five weeks of radiation five times each week, followed by another three chemo treatments.
Through an agreement made with my wonderful oncologist, the radiation was passed over in favor of six consecutive chemo treatments. At the end of those treatments, after reviewing the results of a new CT scan and a bone scan, Wonder Doc said he wanted to refer me to radiation oncologist Jorge Castillo, M.D., and I agreed — albeit reluctantly.
It seems that I still have “critters” growing in my innards. While the majority of my lymph nodes showed shrinkage to within normal limits after chemo, some bolder characters called “peri-inguinal nodes” either decided to not partake of the chemo chemicals or are simply persistent and uncooperative.
After spending a more-sleepless-than usual night December 29, it was off to Dr. Castillo’s office that I went the morning of December 30. I was just a little unnerved by the whole prospect of meeting a new doc and allowing him to poke and prod parts that hadn’t been poked and prodded since May of last year when I was hospitalized (and far too ill to care what was being done to me!).
Oh! Did I mention that about ten minutes before I left for my appointment my daughter called to tell me that she was in active labor and headed to the hospital? More on that in another post! I promise!
Dr. Castillo, however, is one of those rare birds — not unlike Doc Swanson (my Wonder Doc) — who did take the time to attend the courses in doctor-patient relations offered during his time in medical school. The prior Wednesday, after an earlier discussion with the scheduling nurse at Dr. Castillo’s office, I awaited a call back for my appointment time.
To my shock, when the call came at 1:15 PM, it wasn’t the nurse on the line, it was Dr. Castillo, himself! How often can any of you say you have had a doctor actually call you? (It may even be against the law in some states!) He introduced himself warmly and asked me questions based upon his evident review of my patient records from both Martin Memorial Medical Center and Moffitt Cancer Center. I was impressed and reassured — to the extent that one can reassure a nervous Nelly 🙂
After I checked in at his office on Friday, the receptionist pointed me toward the hot coffee and tea and said that the nurse would be with me shortly. As I turned toward the beverage counter, I heard a familiar, masculine voice with just the hint of an Hispanic accent behind me and turned to find Dr. Castillo, himself, his hand outstretched in greeting. He had heard the receptionist say my name and came out to introduce himself and to explain the office procedures. (This, too, may be against the law!)
Shortly, thereafter, the nurse called me into an office where she reviewed my records and obtained the answers to some other questions. Once that was accomplished, she told me the doc would be in to see me “as soon as possible. ” Usually “as soon as possible” translates in doctor-ese to “within, oh, the next half an hour to forty-five minutes,” and usually you’re left sitting and twiddling with your rear-end exposed through the flap on a gown. This time, I was left fully clothed and the doc appeared on scene within less than five minutes!
After once again reviewing some entries in my chart, Dr. Castillo told me that he isn’t certain that he wants to put me through the extreme fatigue, nausea and vomiting that would be part and parcel of the recommended radiation therapy. He wants, first, to refer me for a PET scan — a scan using radioactive tracers that helps in the “staging” of cancer patients (determining how far advanced the disease is). After he reviews the results of the PET scan, he and Wonder Doc will consult again to see what, if any, further treatment they will recommend.
After the consultation portion of the exam, Dr. Castillo proceeded to the poking-prodding portion and demonstrated, once again, his awareness of patient care. He apologized when he thought he had caused ouchies. Afterwards, when I was again fully clothed, I got a goodbye hug with the advice to “Go home, get some rest, enjoy your new grandson, have a Happy New Year and call me around the middle of next week.”
I left Dr. Castillo’s office hastily, as I had about eighteen miles to travel through “snowbird” traffic in order to get to the hospital where my daughter might or not be giving birth at that point. During the drive I had time to re-think the entire visit and the kindness of this new doctor who has come into my life.
So, Air Cancer Flight 102 has been grounded. If the truth be known, I’m a bit unnerved that radiation isn’t being recommended. Not that I had looked forward to it, mind you, but my intuition is telling me that it’s probably not a good thing. The KH is not one to sit and ruminate over things, however, so we’ll bide our time and see what we find out when they scan my pets, er, perform the PET scan! We’re glad that we now have two wonderful docs in charge of our treatment 🙂