The expression “the works” is an idiom with two meanings: 1. Everything; the full range of possibilities and 2. Severe treatment.
Now, I’ve never really been one that orders “the works”, on anything really. I can honestly say that I’ve been to the famed Jack’s Hotdogs and simply ordered my dog with ketchup only. (This should come as no to surprise to my friend Becky who works at my favorite breakfast joint, where I order the same thing every. single. time.) I’ve never dropped my vehicle off at the mechanic and asked for “the works” either, primarily because of cost; but still it suffices as a suitable example. However, today I went to Dana Farber and had “the works” and was put through “the works” (in the Italian sense, like when the mafia men give someone work someone over).
It actually started yesterday. I went to the second floor labs and needed to have twenty tubes and one urine sample. Now my max tubes previously was approximately sixteen for the clinical trial prep testing. Twenty, seriously? Even the phlebotomist said it with an exclamation. Luckily my port decided to cooperate (so there was no ballet recital) and they had hats (the only convenient way to pee in a cup). After my blood sacrifice, I headed over to the Dana building for a PET scan where I was injected with nuclear medicine, told to let it stew for an hour, and then scanned for microscopic cancer cells that at this point would definitely be considered rogue. I surprisingly had little scanxiety this time around (although I think my future mother in law may have taken it over for me). And then I got to go back to the hotel with zero results and return at seven a.m. for more.
So I started off my day with a nice man informing me to undress from the waist up and keep the open part of the johnny in the front (oh joy)! Like I said once before it’s all fun and games until someone winds up in a johnny. But alas there I was and there he was applying electrodes and cold gel like substance so he could properly conduct my echocardiogram. So after getting to hear my heart song and putting my clothes back on, I got to go hang out in a glass box and repeatedly blow into a tube. I have to say the woman who does the Pulmonary Lung function testing is awesome, she makes being encased like a zoo animal almost enjoyable. From there, I was able to meet my social worker who had the task of evaluating me. I was initially skeptical, because well the first social worker I was assigned was a hugger and I am not. Luckily, this one did not attempt to hug me and did not make me cry. She was very straightforward and inquired about how I perceived my transplant and that isolation that followed. She was pleased by my planner and the support offered by my parents, despite that my ever so witty father joked that I was not in their planner way back when. I like to think people find our joking nature refreshing, either that or they think we’re all insane.
After that we met with the clinical nurse that I had been emailing for quite some time with my laundry list of transplant questions. And she was as fabulous as I had hoped. She thoroughly explained the transplant process and went through the schedule and the expectations. I now know how stem cells work and how they will transform my current immune system. I did uncover that if my donor has a different blood type, mine will actual change as my infant stem cells multiply. I have a better understanding of the conditioning regiment which will consist of chemotherapy drugs as well as a very low dose of full body radiation. I did have a moment when talking with Pat, when the topic of whether or not I had had the opportunity to freeze my eggs before all of this started, came up. It always catches me off guard, the tears. I don’t even think I want children, but the not having the choice is hard for me to accept. Thankfully, the subject passed quickly and we went on to discuss other things. She too was impressed by my planner with the color coded med list and illustrated doctor contact page. I think my preparedness helps bring insight to my control freak nature, which has its pros and cons when dealing with this particular situation.
Following my info session, I had a quick EKG and then I was able to meet with my transplant physician who is exceptional in his field and growing on me on a personal level as we get to know each other. Meeting with him was more of a formality, he wanted to check in and have me sign on the dotted line consenting to this process. At this point any attempt at negotiating had already passed. He offered me data, but I didn’t need it anymore. The decision had been made. My PET scan was clear, the stars are aligning so to speak, so as far as I am concerned it’s a go. And it is April 12th, I’ll check in and get my new cells nearly a week later. I did learn that my twenty year old match was from Europe and agreed to donate marrow cells that matched my genetic cellular make up on nine out of ten factors.
And then on to the radiation oncologist, who explained her portion of the process and measured me for lung blocking which would be used during the procedure to protect my lungs. This appointment was relatively quick, which was welcomed after having gone through “the works” the rest of the day. I am now aware that my doctor like to order “the works” and that nine appointments in two days leaves you feeling like you’ve been through “the works”. But I’ll take it, since it is the last of the hoops I need to jump through before I can start the transplant process.
We did manage to sneak in a quick coffee, several minutes in the healing garden, and lunch. I just didn’t want anyone to think that the scheduler was trying to deprive us of food.