We knew we would be scheduled to be in Houston close to Christmas. Jim’s appointments this time were for a blood draw, of course, Doctor visit and an infusion. First one was at 7:30 AM which is always the blood draw. Before we got to the Doctor visit the results were in and continued to look good. Whew! No extra doctor appointments, scans or tests.
When Jim asked the doctor how he (Jim) was doing, he responded “Really well.” He said that Jim continues to have good tolerance and a “complete response” to the drugs. The Doc said that when that shows up early, as it did for Jim, that the likelihood of reoccurence is really minimal. So that’s good news. He had a couple other questions about the fatigue the drugs cause and when that would be over. And we asked about whether or not we could book that trip to Europe that has been evading us for three years. The Doctor said, “You should go.” As soon as we got home, Jim got to work and we are now booked on a trip to Paris, Amsterdam, a Viking River Cruise to Budapest, then to Krakow and Auschwitz. We will be gone for the month of August. We have good friends who feed and visit Carmella so hopefully she will be OK for that long. She won’t have Fluffytail to keep her company since he apparently got placecd in a shelter and hopefully adopted.
A few things have happened which put everything he’s going through into sharp perspective for us and helped us appreciate what we’re going through even more. And to be even more thankful.
A friend from our bus travels posted a note on Facebook on November 28. She said that she and her husband of 53 years had both had the flu for over two weeks. She started getting better but he didn’t. They are located in Yuma, Arizona during the winters and he ended up going to the hospital. There they took blood and discovered that he had the flu, pneumonia and discovered he also had Acute Myeloid Leukemia, an aggressive, fast growing blood cancer. They said that if he had chemo he might last one to two years. No chemo? Two to four weeks! At first I thought that was a typo and she must have meant months.
They started the chemo to give themselves some time to discuss things and he had a seven day course. After a couple more days in the hospital after that, he went home. For two days. Then they found he had blood clots in his lungs so back to the hospital he went. The family was called. Two days later he died. It was eighteen days from diagnosis to demise. Her family was with her during this time but she rightfully said, “Nothing prepares you for the death of a loved one.” What a terrible shock and right before the holidays. Makes us appreciate M.D. Anderson, our doctor and the clinical trial’s success all the more. As if we weren’t already grateful…
After what we’ve seen happening with friends around us this was a real eye opener.
While I was in Yoga, of all places, my phone rang. Of course I silenced it but called the number back later. It was a friend and it turned out she was at M.D. Anderson and had some questions. Her husband, who had a stroke a few years ago and can’t see or walk well was diagnosed with Melanoma. She was asking about where we stayed, parked and maneuvered while at M.D. Anderson. I was happy to help since it can be overwhelming to navigate, even if you’re able-bodied. He apparently had a course of chemo while there and has to return for surgery and more treatment. Jim had started baking bread for the neighbors for Christmas and they were on the list. It’s going to be a rough winter for them.
Another way M.D. Anderson is exceptional; all your appointments are either early or on time. After the Doctor visit was over this time, we decided to head to the infusion center even though his appointment wasn’t until 1:00 PM. They got him in early and we were finished up by 4:00 PM instead of 5:00 or 6:00 PM.
We knew that when we got back to the Rio Grande Valley that we were in for a drop in temperatures related to the winter storm. The last time we got below freezing was for a week in February of 2020 and our power was out for over a week. We had to go get the bus to stay warm.
We got up early on Thursday to get home early enough to try to save some of the garden. We each drive the same leg of the trip each time and shortly after we had switched drivers, I got pulled over outside of Kleburg in a construction zone. Now, Texas drivers drive FAST but, construction. Jim had just angled back his seat and was taking a little rest when I passed the local Constable. Then I saw him pulling out and his lights on. I said to Jim, “I’m getting pulled over.” It was a busy area and he approached the passenger side window. He said I was doing 79 in a 60 MPH construction zone. OOPS! He asked where we lived and we told him we were Winter Texans and heading back to Edinburg from Houston. He asked what we were doing in Houston and we both pulled the cancer card and told him we were returning from a treatment. I figured a 19 mile over the limit ticket was going to be expensive. He took my license and insurance and went back to his truck. When he emerged I didn’t see a piece of paper in his hands. When he came back from the truck he said he was just going to give me a verbal warning and to slow down. Then he wished us Merry Christmas and we enthusiastically responded Merry Christmas! Somehow, right then, I knew that even when the cold weather came, we weren’t going to lose power and things would be fine. I drove the speed limit (which is 75) the rest of the way home. I slowed down for construction too.
It was predicted that we would have below freezing temps for four mornings. When we got back, we covered the elephant ears, rubber trees and a few pots. The castor beans were on their own since they were as tall as the house. I have lots of seeds.
That rubber tree covered with the blue tarp is over 10 feet tall and the brown tarp one is even taller. They both made it and are standing tall again. I cut some of the sweet potato vine and brought it in the house in case it wouldn’t regrow from the roots. All in all, everything came through just fine. The castor beans got bit at the top but I am going to cut them back to a hedge and see what happens. And we didn’t lose power during the storm!
Christmas was quiet and cold but it started warming up. Jim grilled steaks and we had them with roasted carrots and mashed potatoes. Jim is still not doing any indoor activities because we don’t want anything to jeopardize the clinical trial. So no dances or indoor Happy Hours. It won’t be long until we can do all that again, we hope. There are several viruses going around the park and we’re not taking any chances. As he told our financial advisor, “I’m not being antisocial, just asocial.” He is determined.
This was the end of his ninth cycle of 13 treatments plus the pills he takes every day. So we have January, February, March and April for a monthly infusion, then a return in May for a scan and the end of the trial! We are so very grateful that it is working! We couldn’t have a better ending to the year.
Wishing you all the very best in 2023. Remember, enjoy every day!