DO YOU BELIEVE IN PRESENT DAY MIRACLES?
I’m not talking about the miracle of a new day or the miracle of new born baby. I’m talking about KNOWING or actually EXPERIENCING one first hand.
A woman goes to the doctor on a Wednesday in April of 2001 experiencing breathing problems. She knows deep down that something is wrong. The nurse practitioner examines her. It is believed that the woman may have lymphoma as her glands in her neck are so swollen that it is cutting off her windpipe. She goes in on Thursday for X-ray’s. Friday she is scheduled for a biopsy. While cutting into her neck for the biopsy the surgeon decides to remove all the lymph nodes on the right side of her neck. This woman even drives herself home from this surgery (without the hospital or doctor’s knowledge of course). Four days later she has an oncologist (a cancer doctor) telling her her options for treatment. They do not know the results of her surgery as yet but the options for treatment are grim thus far. It is decided to send the lymph nodes to Stanford Medical Center one of the leading cancer treatment centers in the WORLD. Remember this has only been one week in this woman’s life.
Another week goes by and the woman is experiencing worry, anxiety, and impatience. This woman is only 34 years old and has two children to raise on her own. Her siblings are far away. She is alone.
Finally the Doctor’s office calls to tell her the results. It is confirmed as non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma type B. That doesn’t mean anything to her. The doctor asks for her to come in for a meeting. During the course of the meeting the doctor explains the extent of the disease. She has a 4 inch tumor over her heart and lung, inoperable. She has another one under her left underarm. Several along the left side of her neck. The ones on the right have been removed. The doctor explains that she has at most 4-5 months to live. Normal Chemotherapy takes 12 months. Remember this woman is only 34, this is only April and they are giving her dire news. The doctor offers an alternative. There is an experimental treatment through Stanford Medical. It is called the Stanford Five Protocol. It will take 9-12 weeks and she will be very very ill. Without hesitation she grasps at this straw and agrees. The doctor is taken aback. He again explains that this is experimental and there are no guarantees. The woman comes back with there is no time for normal procedures so what choice does she really have. Two weeks later the doctor has ordered the experimental medicines to his office and they begin treatment. First they must harvest some of her bone marrow for evaluation. Ever get a huge needle through your hip into your bone? Ever have the doctor miss the site, repeatedly? It is extremely painful.
In the meantime the woman gets her affairs in order and writes her will. She informs her family of the dire news including her siblings and children. She hides nothing from her children as she will need them to be brave. Her youngest cries with her.
Starting treatment isn’t easy. They give her an IV full of the poisons that they must administer to save her. One of these is a mustard treatment that in gas form was used in the World Wars by the German’s to kill their enemies. Ironic that something so terrible can now do good. The IV drip takes about a half an hour or so. Feeling fine the woman leaves the doctor’s office to drive herself back to work. About 2 hours later she begins projectile vomiting, a normal cause and effect of cancer treatment.
During the 12 weeks of this therapy she goes weekly for these treatments. They vary from week to week. Three of the poisons one week, two the other weeks. Four weeks into treatment she begins to lose her waist length hair. After a week of being able to pull out chunks of hair she shaves it all off and begins to wear scarves and a hat. Soon after she becomes anemic. They start her on more medicines. One shot alone she must have almost daily. It costs $500 per shot and must be refrigerated. Have you ever had cold ice literally run into your veins? Her veins have begun to disappear. On her right arm they can no longer find the vein, and then they can no longer use it anyway due to scar tissue developing. They offer to put in a shunt in her chest for the treatments but she refuses. One vein in her right arm twists of its own accord. They mention the possibility of cutting in to remove or realign it. It’s painful but they decide to wait to see if it will twist itself back.
Her days begin to take on a sameness. She wakes at 5am and eats a banana. In a half hour she takes 8 pills that will help to keep her alive to survive the treatments. One is to help her with nausea, one is a tranquilizer, one makes her cold. Within an hour she will most likely vomit all of them up. In an average day she takes 16 pills. Some are the size of horse pills. The doctor tells her to cut that one in half to take it, no way then that seems that she is taking an extra pill! Laughter sustains her. The only things she can eat are fresh fruits. She loses weight.
The doctor is amazed with her mental attitude. Her sense of humor doesn’t waver. In fact he is watching this closely as a good mental attitude helps as much as the medicines. She finds humor in the coldness of the medicines, the colors, the illness itself.
She is expecting only 9 weeks of this treatment. The doctor decides to go with the full 12 weeks. After the 10th she looks back. She has been in the office of this doctor almost daily for some treatments. Now it begins to depress her. The last two weeks are purely hell for her. She finally misses an appointment as she is too nauseous to drive herself. The doctor is concerned and offers to send an ambulance. She refuses but makes the next day’s appointment. She makes it through the full 12 weeks. They are finished with this! No more IV’s. They’ve tortured her for the last time. Or is she through.
They begin to wean her off the pills. She runs out of some and refuses to renew the prescriptions. She goes into severe withdrawal. The doctor informs her that at 34 she is going through menopause. This devastates her as much as the news of the disease. It takes almost two weeks to go through all the symptoms of withdrawal. She continues to shake for over a month.
After a month this woman moves across the country to be nearer her family. The doctor advises her against it but she needs it for her well-being. She drives herself, her children, and their pets across the country. She is exhausted, shaky, and feeble. From some of the pills she is still going through withdrawals. Her hair begins to grow back. A month later she begins radiation therapy.
They give her three tattoos for this. She draws on her sense of humor for this. The radiation treatments leave her dizzy and slightly nauseous. It also causes her to gain a lot of weight. She drives herself to these weekly appointments. When they are finished the doctor believes that the lymphoma is gone. The x-ray’s show nothing but a bump in her chest. Twice a year for several years then once a year for life are the checkups. That’s it, she can go.
Her 35th birthday comes and she celebrates it with friends and family. She really has something to celebrate. She beat the 4-5 month prognosis.
I BELIEVE IN MIRACLES. This happened to me in 2001.