Wednesday, June 2, 2010


"So, we have a new plan," said the oncologist.

Linda and I waited. It had been a long and exhausting day at Princes Margaret Hospital. A day of concern and support and additional testing. A day of confirming, once again, the power of reality over hearsay.

I always thought I was a good communicator. After all I it had been the way I made my livelihood back in my working day, not so very long ago. But for the nurses and doctors my phone calls reporting on my condition paled into insignificance with one look at me panting and choking for breath in their office.

Suddenly my back and chest were being stethoscoped, my blood pressure taken, my oxygen level monitored. I was being given new chest X-rays and new blood samples were being taken. And Linda and I were urged to report on the increasing devolution in my condition that we had been experiencing over the past week.

Then Linda and I waited while the medical team huddled and conferred, coordinated and came up with a new plan for my future.

"So, we're canceling your chemo for this Thursday and moving forward the suctioning off of the fluid surrounding your lungs."

"Surrounding my lungs? I thought the fluid was actually in my lungs?"

"No the fluid is between the surrounding membrane and your lungs, putting pressure on them from the outside. Crushing them, in effect. We'll be suctioning off about a litre of fluid"

"A litre! Good Lord. A full litre of fluid?"

The oncologist smiled, "There's actually about a litre and a half of fluid there, but we're going to leave half a litre as a buffer and let the thoracic surgeon decide what to do about the more delicate work when you see him on the 8th. The risk isn't great but whenever your poking around the lungs with sharp pointy objects there is always the risk of puncturing and collapsing your lungs and we'd rather let the surgeon take that risk because then there'd be the need for more and immediate surgery."

Linda and I paled a little. Or a lot.

"He might also want to install a permanent tap in your chest to ease the risk of damage when further fluid extractions are required, because unfortunately, once you've had this done once, it may have to be repeated, unless the chemo proves even more effective at fighting off the disease this time around."

We paled again.

The oncologist smiled again, "But I promise, once the fluid extraction has taken place on Thursday you will notice a dramatic difference almost immediately. Not only will that panting and cough stop, but all your old energy levels will come back. And you should have no difficulty sleeping."

And so Linda and I left the hospital with a completely revised schedule of appointments including a plan for three new chemo cycles stretching forward into mid summer.

And hope.