The education I’m getting as a supporter/advocate/sherpa for a cancer patient is beyond my imagination. On Friday, though, it brought me a delightful little perk.
The Chemo Unit at Juravinski Cancer Hospital, where the patient is receiving immunotherapy, ran on time the first time we visited. That just set us up with unrealistic expectations! They were 90 minutes behind on Friday. The room is dry. They do try to make it comfortable with pitchers of water and stuff to read. A lady sits bored behind a table of headwear she makes for chemo patients who lose their hair. A TV on a 1970s sitcom channel runs silently with captions. It was a long wait, especially for the patients.
More than an hour past our appointment time, a woman came around pushing a cart stacked with black-and-white striped bags. She began handing them out to all of the women in the waiting room – patients and caregivers – and wishing us a Happy International Women’s Day. The mood of the room changed as we all unzipped our Stella and Dot makeup bags and dug through the goodies inside.
If the donors who put these bags together hoped to make a difference to women going through one of the worst experiences of their lives: Mission accomplished. The room came alive with chatter and laughter. Patients applied lip balm to their dry lips. We sniffed bottles and ate candies. My bag also included a small puzzle book which I gave to my patient because she’s a puzzle person. (Hers included a different one.) It was a delightful moment and sorely needed. Thank you, Bennett Mechanical and Juravinski.
A short time later they called us to the treatment room. Everything went as planned, if not as scheduled.
Several people have asked me about immunotherapy. Some suggested it might be a vitamin injection or a non-medicinal treatment. It’s actually the latest medical weapon against cancer.
There are many options and they’re all expensive. In this case, it’s an IV-delivered drug every three weeks. It boosts the patient’s own immune system so it can find and fight the cancer. Sometimes it stops cancer from growing and spreading and other times it actually reduces tumours. Patients have generally tended to live longer and have better quality of life with this treatment. Other than fatigue, our patient isn’t aware of any side effects. And there’s proof that it’s working. We just have to keep up our end of the bargain, my patient and me.