Steve's phlebotomist was able to stick him on the first try. He's worked with Steve enough to know that accessing veins on his arm is tricky, so he went straight for the right hand, which is now bruised more than usual.
We waited some more and then spent about 45 minutes with Dr. M, who wanted to review his chemotherapy regimen plus his extra drugs.
She also addressed his current cough, which we think has been contributing to his weakened voice. His blood oxygen level dropped to 95 (out of 100) yesterday; it had been 96 when he checked it the day before. His blood work indicated his lymph count was slightly out of range. He takes Dapsone to prevent pneumonia, but we're still always worried about fluid in his lungs, especially with his aspiration risk. And we learned yesterday that prolonged use of Decadron masks a fever, so we wouldn't necessarily immediately know if his body is trying to fight off infection. (If his fever is 99.5 or higher, Dr. M told us to head straight to the ER -- we should call her on the way, not before.) To be safe, she ordered a chest X-ray, so after the appointment we headed upstairs for a scan, which thankfully came back clean! He's taking an antibiotic for the next week to address any possible underlying infection.
As I've written before, Dr. M's manner is comforting. She expressed sincere admiration for the way Steve and I have handled the past few months, giving Steve extra credit for continuing to work and keeping a calm, level-headed demeanor. She talked with me about giving up at least three things I currently do, to ease the burden of caregiving and trying to keep life somewhat normal for our family. I've already given up just about every volunteer activity -- all but one church committee, leading Sunday school, editing the PTA newsletter, general help at school. I continue to rely on friends and family for meals twice a week; laundry fairies who pick up, wash, dry and fold when it gets out of control here; two or three Steve driving trips each week; help picking up or dropping off Cooper in emergencies; care for Katie during doctor appointments; and much more. Truly, there is a whole team of unsung heroes that keeps this family moving!
She reminded us that just because we give up something now -- extracurricular activities, volunteerism, friends' birthday parties, other events we would normally attend -- doesn't mean they're gone forever. But this is Steve's time to be on chemotherapy for brain cancer, a time for him to heal and for us to enjoy one another's company without extra stress. It's the same message that our friend Jen shares beautifully -- there are seasons in life, and this is a different season for us.
For everything there is a season,
and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 NRSV)