A very good news day
My first newspaper job was as a cub reporter for The Kansas City Star, the afternoon daily serving my hometown. There, I had to roll into work each day by 6:30 a.m., telephone local police agencies for all the overnight news and have all of my stories written and filed before noon so that the paper could be printed in time to hit the driveways of our news-hungry subscribers no later than around 5 p.m. I knew at the time that such a crazy chedule would be hard on my health. Besides the unforgiving deadlines, the sheer excitement and pressure of the job required me to guzzle two pots of coffee and smoke a pack of cigarettes each morning before racing out for a Double-Whopper With Cheese for lunch. Then, after quitting time, the job description called for we reporters to arrive at some local watering hole by late afternoon so we’d have plenty of time to slam down pitcher after pitcher of cheap beer before refueling our bodies for the next day with an a lousy, unplanned and non-nutritious dinner of pub food.
I was reminded of those PM-newspaper years today when I headed into the Orlando Regional Medical Center for my regular MRI scan. It was still dark when I got to the hospital just after 7 a.m., and then I had a hectic morning checking in, having my insurance verified, changing into warm, loose-fitting clothes and popping an anti-nausea pill and then being crammed into a small, extremely noisy tube just like the one pictured above. I lay there for two hours for all the scans to be completed. Then I rushed down the hall to my oncologist’s office to get the medical report and updated prognosis before driving home for the daily nap I need to relieve chemotherapy fatigue . Given all that activity, I was worried I wouldn’t have time to file an update for this blog by the end of the day. But I’ll be damned if I didn’t make the time to write this story –even without the assistance of coffee, cigarettes, cheeseburgers or beer. And I only blew deadline by a couple hours.
It’s very good news, and after that windy opening I’ll keep the rest of the story short. The scan showed my brain cancer has not progressed even a tiny bit since my last scan on December 2. If anything, mydoctor told me, the powerful chemo drugs I’m on continue to beat it back. “You should be very happy with these results,” said Dr. George Bobustuc. He told me he’d keep hammering away at the remnants of my tumor with biweekly chemo infusions. He’ll keep checking my progress with more scans about every six weeks. The doctor said we could keep this very effective combination of drugs going for as long as a year, if need be. If the tumor actuallystarts to recede, he may be able to cut back on the frequency of my infusions — which would be great news on the fatigue front. He also reported that there was no sign of a recurring buildup of excess fluid in my brain. That was the issue that plagued me last fall and required an eight-day hospitalization to drain all that extra juice out of my melon.
Yet another thing about today reminded me of my old days at The Star. There by my side, as I soaked up all this good news in the doctor’s office, sat my longtime, dear friend Ann Hellmuth, an ace journalist who was my editor and boss back in those days.We’ve been friends and colleagues for going on 30 years now. Ann moved fromThe Star to The Orlando Sentinel back in the mid-1980s and shortly thereafter talked me into following along. She said it was a great place to work, and she was right. We had a blast working together all those years in journalism. We’re both out of the biz now. But lately, Ann and I have become colleagues of a different sort: Colleagues in cancer treatment. Ann, a cancer survivor in her own right, is currently helping her husband Justus right now in a grinding but increasingly successful battle against lung cancer. Though Justus and I have completely different forms of cancer, the three of us compare notes almost daily on symptoms, treatments, side-effects and all the darker, scarier, and more existential shit that all cancer patients must deal with sooner or later. Ann wanted to be with me at my appointment today, and she showed up in the oncology waiting room with a smile on her face and a bag full of fresh breakfast pastries from Panera Bread. It was great having her there not only for the moral support but for her lightning-fast notetaking skills. If I ever need a verbatim transcript of today’s meeting with my doctor, Ann will be able to provide it.
Thanks for being there today, Ann. As usual, you made it all very fun. I’m sorry I had to do such a rush job on the story, but at least I got the main news in. Of course, I’m still writing long, but this time I almost made deadline. And I even have an idea for a cute kicker.
How’s that for progress?