Forrest Gump knew when he voiced over: "Mama got the cancer and died on a Tuesday. I bought her a new hat with little flowers on it. And that’s all I have to say about that." And if you watched the movie as often as I did (it was one of my mother’s favorites), you may also recall "Mama always said you got to put the past behind you before you can move on." However, as regularly as I try to follow Forrest’s and his Mama’s sage Greenbow, Alabama advice, being a real-life cancer patient, some days are more difficult than others, especially when your oncology nurse calls the you the day before your every-three-week chemotherapy infusion to tell you that some of the levels tested for in your every-three-week, pre-chemotherapy lab work are abnormal (creatinine too high, GFR too low) which may put a stop to the treatment this week. And if there’s one psychological crutch I’ll admit to having, it’s the need to not miss any of my regularly-scheduled infusions or any of the other scans or miscellaneous appointments as a means not to my premature end.
Although this potential blip in my lung cancer trip has happened previously: white blood cell count too low, potassium too high, blood work hemolyzed; which also led to re-tests, new prescriptions, stoppage of treatment, etc., hearing it is never good news. Among other considerations, it means complications and likely delays concerning things that yours truly, as the patient, doesn’t want to think it means: trouble with a capital "T." Nevertheless, the experience is not unfamiliar and mostly the results have been overturned on appeal, if you follow my drift. Still, until the new results are posted and/or the new prescription is filled or the infusions continue, it’s difficult to put the past behind you because the present won’t let you.
After the initial disappointment has passed, Ron, my oncology nurse, and I discuss my options since medically speaking, everything needs to be re-confirmed. I opt for a re-test immediately in the hope that a second test – a day later, that very day in fact – would provide whatever time my body and/or the lab needed to determine that my results did indeed fall within the normal parameters, for me, and so the infusion could go on – in, actually. If the results are unfortunately still too high/too low, we have a plan for that but since neither Ron nor I are inclined to beat the rush and panic now, we’ll patiently (no pun intended) wait for the re-test’s results. And since my blood work is always "STAT" (a.s.a.p. for you lay people out there), we’ll receive confirmation by 4 p.m. this afternoon, more than enough time to still maintain my infusion schedule for tomorrow and move forward, which for those of us being actively treated, is crucial. At least to this patient, it is (in my head, anyway).
Approximately four hours after my conversation with Ron, including the 45-minute drive to the lab, the 30-minute wait to be drawn and then the 10-minute drive home, Ron calls to tell me that he’ll see me tomorrow. The re-test came back normal and we can all proceed with the infusion – and caution as usual. Whether you take Rolaids or not, you can spell r-e-l-i-e-f now. Now whether a week’s delay due to the levels in my lab work would have actually mattered in the short, middle or long term infusion schedule, one certainly can’t know. At least now, I can go forward and not worry as much about the past since we’re presently on track once again. Life really is like a box of chocolates. Although I like the caramels and soft centers best.