When you are driving and that pesky little "check engine light" comes on... you should stop what you are doing and get some help.
When you are driving and you notice the Jiffy Lube sticker in the upper left hand corner of your window says you should have gotten your oil changed 1,500 miles ago.... you should stop what you are doing and get some help.
When you are driving and your gas light comes on.... you should stop what you are doing and get some help because you are running on E. The Schmitt family, my friends, is running on E.
Mom and Dad pulled into Seattle at 9am this morning and started their long trip home thru rush hour traffic at 5:30pm. Most of the time when you put in those type of hours you get to walk away with a paycheck and not a fanny-pack filled with Chemo drugs. I'm not going to lie, today was tough. Today has been one of the toughest days I've had in a long time. I haven't cried a lot (although the day isn't over yet) but mentally and emotionally I am beat.
I hit traffic this morning on the way down to Seattle and since Angie had a mandatory class today and couldn't come down, I was without the luxury of the carpool lane. When I finally got to the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance it was 10:00. Dad was in his room and the nurse was about to get started with the injections. Mom and I were able to sit in the private suite with Dad the entire time. We took turns lying next to him, holding his hand, rubbing his feet, etc. Numerous nurses, nutritionists, social workers, and chaplains visited throughout the day to make sure we were ok. I have no doubt that my parents are being treated at the right hospital. I can't express my appreciation for their professional skills... which are performed with such a caring & human touch.
At 3:45 Dad finally finished his long day of treatment. He did not experience any serious discomfort. He was never nauseous or uncomfortable. He experienced sweating, some significant foot/leg cramping, and an elevated heartbeat at one point. That's it. At the conclusion of the treatment a nurse hooked up his take home fanny pack. The fanny pack holds additional chemo drugs which are being injected directly into the port in his chest until Thursday afternoon.
After his treatment ended we went upstairs to see his doctor and get the results of his tests from last week. This is where I have to admit, I struggled to make it through the test results. The doctor began by saying the lesions on his liver have grown. I'm not sure what I expected to hear, but it wasn't that. I am well aware that my dad just spent the past 5 weeks recovering from his colon surgery and did not receive any treatment during that time. It's not like I expected to hear that his liver is looking "better"... since he wasn't being treated yet... but I think we have been spoiled when it comes to mom's excellent progress reports. We have never heard her oncologist say anything negative. Every appointment her scans look better than the one before. That was not what we heard today with dad.
The test results contained a lot of big words and a lot numbers... none of which will help you understand my dad's condition... except one. His CEA count. CEA is a tumor marker, equivalent to a PSA reading for someone with prostate cancer or the CA 125 test for a woman with breast or ovarian cancer. It is a baseline reading to read the cancer cells. For the average person, a normal score for a CEA test would be somewhere between 0.0 - 2.0. My dad's CEA is currently 44.3, up from 26 at his appointment last month. Clearly, it was hard for all of us to hear the doctor say that. Nobody wanted, or expected, to hear that his cancer was growing so quickly. The doctor assured us that nothing was abnormal about the findings however. He said it is expected for the cancer to grow until the patient receives medical treatment. He told dad to think positive, eat well, get some exercise, and to enjoy life with the family that obviously loves him. It's hard to argue with those directions. We've decided to give them a try.
Today was long and emotional but the unknown of chemo is now behind us. We are home and resting. It's time to pay attention to the flashing red light that's telling us to refuel. We can all use some sleep....