In Sickness and in Health

Posted on December 11, 2010


Brian and I met his new oncologist yesterday, Dr. Kristie Blum. Although we loved Dr. Andrew Grainger, who saw us through the storm of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma diagnosis and treatment to the tranquil waters of remission, insurance changes mean doctor changes. You know how that works. I am not going to complain one iota about insurance, though, since it is far better to have than to have not.

The James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State University proved far different island than the calm oasis that was Dr. Grainger’s office. A crowded waiting area, with chairs lined up tightly and Dr. Phil a bit too loud for comfort were complimented by a woman yelling into her phone to try to prevent her car from being towed while she wrangled two mildly wild children (rambunctious no doubt because they would have rather been anywhere else but there–and I could understand that feeling).

Checking in with the front desk was tight enough quarters that I suggested Brian drop his voice to recite his social security number having just had to give his birth date three times. It was made a bit more entertaining by the fact that our clerk, Tom, was a harness racing fan and one-time Hoof Beats reader.

After being ushered into a private room, Brian was weighed and vitaled before we sat for a bit more than 90 minutes awaiting Dr. Blum (God love TNT for playing “Tremors,”  one of the greatest movies ever, at 4 p.m. on a Friday).

In all the important ways, however, she was worth the wait. She felt Brian all over and said that no nodes were good nodes–nothing was swollen or out-of-place. She also changed his protocol to CAT scans every six months, instead of every four, for the next year, and annually thereafter. Blood tests will come every three months in between.

The fact he remains healthy nearly two years after ending treatment is good news, she said. Big sigh of relief.

To answer some of Dr. Blum’s questions, I needed to consult the notebook I kept since the day of Brian’s diagnosis, and looking back at my notes brought back all too clearly where we had been two years  prior. The sickness and fatigue, each little bruise or pain that now caused far more concern, the good days and bad, the friends who were there when we needed them with bags of food and cooked lasagnas.

It brought back his reactions to medications and fondness for grits on the mornings after chemo. It brought back the day we shaved his head and discovering his eyebrows had fallen out. It brought back memories of writing down every medication given in what order and at what time to ensure no mistakes were made. It brought back my constant state of fear after diagnosis and during treatment that I was not providing enough care to Brian or smothering him with too much.  It brought back the sleepless nights, and all the days I watched him sleep. It brought back the crippling terror that would grip me around 3 a.m. some mornings that he would die and leave me.

Despite the good news and Dr, Blum’s positive attitude, I still have my concerns. I’m worried about the change in monitoring, since I like that the CAT scans give us news on a frequent and regular basis. But I also worried too many CAT scans will give us a whole new set of problems. But when it comes to Brian (and our son, Danny) I worry pretty much all the time, in case that isn’t obvious.

You know when you get married, you promise to take care of each other in sickness and in health, as long as you both shall live. Feels like just words a lot of the time.

Until the day it’s not.

PS: If you haven’t heard, Brian’s book, The Year My Dad Went Bald, is being published a we speak. Check out his site at!

Posted in: cancer, lymphoma, oncology