There have been some game-changing moments in this journey of mine, and last week's trip to Stanford was a biggie. It's crazy how I can seem to be stumbling along in the dark, then—in a very defining moment—a harsh florescent light flickers on and illuminates the path in front of me. It's like turning on a flashlight deep inside a cave, or, for my Tolkein people, like lighting a torch while passing through the Mines of Moria—a whole host of unpleasant things are usually lurking in the distance.
My most recent meeting with the Stanford people was last Wednesday, and it's taken me this long (about a week) to process those three hours. Some of that time was spent mentally and emotionally adjusting to the new realities that were presented to me, the rest was spent transcribing the interviews we taped with the Transplant Specialist and the Social Worker.
Was transcribing each 90-minute tape word-for-word really necessary? Probably not, but apparently there is still some residual journalistic nerdiness leftover from my CityBeat days. Plus, I literally have nothing better to do. So it comes as no surprise to me that banging out those tapes actually turned out to be enlightening and therapeutic. We had all come away so overwhelmed and confused by those whirlwind conversations that transforming them into words on a page helped de-mystify them for me, taking my understanding of what's coming down the pike in the next few months to a much deeper level.
So. What is coming down the pike? Three more six-day inpatient chemo cycles and then: a Stem Cell Transplant. (Click that link if you're interested in browsing a complete .pdf of the pre-transplant info binder they gave me).
Until last Wednesday, the Stanford docs had been holding out their opinions about whether or not I had a Stem Cell Transplant in my future. However they did summon us for a meeting with a Transplant Specialist/Coordinator, so that had to mean something. Right?
A meeting with the Transplant Specialist/Coordinator! That sounded important. Plus, the lobby of The Stanford Cancer Center is so sleek and marbly that every time I come for a meeting I expect to be directed to an elegantly-appointed conference room, with sweeping views of the Stanford Campus and a long mahogany conference table in the middle. (Or at least a fancy wooden desk.) During the meeting, I would then expect to sip mineral water while my slides are put through Power Point. Then, once my case history was thoroughly reviewed, the time would finally have come to discuss the pros and cons of the treatment with my wise, compassionate Transplant Specialist and her highly capable team.
Of course, each time I show up, I am directed to the ground-level clinic, where me and my small entourage (mom, dad, Annie) are shuffled into one of several cramped exam rooms, all painted the exact same shade of tomato soup. I'm also made to wear a heavy flannel hospital gown, which, for the actual amount of poking and prodding they do, is totally unnecessary. My butt crinkles the paper of the exam table as my family perches thigh-to-thigh on folding chairs. We all slump wearily, listening to the medical bustle in the corridor outside, chuckling at ourselves for continuing to arrive with the same illusions. (I know I'm not the only one who expected mahogany furniture.)
When the doctor did arrive, she was kind enough, but they're always rushed. This is not to say they aren't thorough. They are. They're just speedy. One minute she's shaking my hand hello, the next thing I know she's on her way out, saying her nurse will bring me a binder with everything I need to know about my Stem Cell Transplant. I know from my tape that valuable, informed, comprehensive phrases passed through her lips while we all sat in that tiny room together, it's just fascinating how little is retained in the moment.
God. Talk about seeing down the path and seeing it will suck.
Anyway. The stem cell transplant. Here are the golden nuggets I have managed to grasp that explain why I need to have this transplant and what it will be like: