Thanksgiving Day of 2011 was the first big turning point in my fight with cancer. I was sitting at the dinner table with my wife, Linda, and our two sons, when I couldn’t even swallow a sip of water, let alone get the turkey down.
I was scared. Five years earlier, I had gone to a hospital near my home in Colorado with a painful spider bite on my leg. The doctor noticed the swelling on my neck and felt around my glands and throat. I thought it was strange that he was focused more on my neck than the spider bite. I think she knew when she looked at me that I had a problem.
Days later I learned that my problem was cancer. I was sent to a cancer hospital, where I was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. The doctor said I had the disease for a while and said we were going to “watch and wait” to see how things progressed. I told him I didn’t want to wait. I didn’t want to watch, either. I wanted to get better.
I went for a second opinion and it was pretty much the same. So I stopped going to cancer doctors because the ones I had met up to that point didn’t do anything for me. I mean, I wouldn’t take my car to a mechanic if he couldn’t fix it, either.
In early December, I had my first round of chemotherapy. The doctors on my care team came up with a combination of two chemotherapy drugs that a recent study showed would be better than traditional chemotherapy. I felt like I was getting the most advanced treatment possible for my cancer.
My first treatment was over two days: eight hours on the first day and four hours on the second, followed by a shot to help build up my blood cells. With the swelling in my neck down, I was feeling good.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I was in pain after my first treatment. In fact, I was feeling pretty beat up, my bones especially. But it didn’t last long. One of the great things about CTCA is that you have a whole team of doctors and clinicians who can handle anything that comes up.
During my treatment, I saw a naturopathic physician, a nutritionist and a physical therapist. I had acupuncture and massage therapy to help with the pain of treatment and with my arthritis. I took supplements to reduce inflammation and fatigue. These therapies worked hand in hand, helping with the healing process.
Back to Normal
Wayne had chemotherapy at CTCA, with fortunately very few side effects. It was the injected medication that helps build up white blood cell counts, delivered after the chemotherapy, which caused the most pain. But even that was just a day of aching. He did feel tired, but he was tired anyway, so that was not a bother.
As a caregiver, I found all the information provided to us at CTCA to be enormously helpful. You can always spot the new patients there because they are carrying around a briefcase. Those briefcases are filled with cards from each doctor, with their photograph and contact information, along with all the educational materials we needed. The Cancer Fighters Care Network also proved a wonderful resource for information.
My job was to get my husband where he needed to be and when he needed to be there. While he was having chemotherapy, I would meet with an administrator to arrange his treatment schedule, making sure it was coordinated with the time I could take off from my work. CTCA made it easy. The hardest thing was making sure we got to the airport on time.
Today my husband is doing wonderfully. He has more energy than I do. His spirits are so high. A huge weight was lifted from our lives when we got to CTCA. Just to hear someone offer him some kind of help and hope—that made all the difference.