“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me” Micah 7:7
I started this post from the spacial lobby of NIH in Bethesda, Maryland while I wait for my fourth vaccine injection. I pretty much have a routine for these trips that occur every three weeks. I fly in to Reagan National in DC on a Monday morning, take the Metro to the Bethesda Marriott and spend the afternoon in their awesome fitness center, have dinner and get to bed early. On Tuesday I take the 7:30 am shuttle to NIH and head immediately to phlebotomy for a myriad of blood and urine tests. There are usually three or four nurses who greet and register patients and they always ask how I’m doing. Without fail, when I answer with my usual response “Richly blessed and highly favored!” they reply with a chorus of “Amen!”, “You know that’s right!” or “Praise the Lord!”. Now that’s a great way to start the day!
I usually have an hour or so to kill before I meet with the trial research team so I’ll either grab a coffee or wander over to the voucher/cashier office. I don’t know about other studies but NIH makes all the travel arrangements so I don’t have to come out of pocket and be reimbursed. In fact, Omega Travel is located in building #10 at NIH. What I do have to pay for is the hotel and food so when I have a few minutes, I fill out and submit a voucher request form. Within an hour or two I can pick it up and walk next door to the cashier who peels off $60 per night for the hotel and $8 per day for food. Candidly, this doesn’t cover a third of what I spend but it’s better than nothing plus my Aflac cancer plan pays off like a slot machine for treatments.
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OK, back to my blog. My clinical trial is held on the 12th floor and I usually have to wait for a few minutes which is OK. I’ve gotten to know the nurses pretty well and use the time to catch up on sports or what’s going in their lives. My buddy Greg likes to introduce me to people that are in trials so I get to meet some very nice people. When I do get called in I will meet with two or three doctors who start by asking me a litany of questions about how I feel. Then we go over the test results from phlebotomy. Today was a good day. My PSA had gone down to .07 thanks to the Lupron, which stops me from producing Testosterone, the stuff cancer cells feed on. The creatinine to urine ratio, which had spiked 6 weeks ago, had also gone down.
We talked a little about my next visit in December and the transition from the Prosvac to chemo. Prosvac is the experimental immunotherapy drug that, along with the chemo, is supposed to improve the length of time the Lupron is effective. Beginning December 14, I’ll be receiving a Docetaxel infusion every three weeks for six treatments which will end in April.
Once the research team is done with me I head over to the day hospital and register for the vaccine. They have to produce it there so it usually takes a couple hours. When it’s ready there’s a short window when it can be used so they send me away with a beeper to let me know when to come back. At this point it’s lunchtime and I’ll make my way to the cafeteria in the basement. It sounds weird but the food court at NIH is pretty good. Sticking with my vegan lifestyle I generally get a big salad and take it up the the 3rd floor outside the day hospital and wait for their call.
My goal is to be done by 2:30 so I can catch the NIH shuttle back to Reagan and as I said before, today was a good day. Now it’s up to American Airlines to get me back to Tampa on time. I’ll be home by 10:00 pm.
So far I’ve made six trips to NIH, one every three weeks, and although it’s too early to know if I’m winning yet, the fact that I’m doing something about my cancer gives me hope. Don’t get me wrong, I still have faith in God and trust Him to direct my path with all my heart. There’s an old Russian proverb that goes “Pray to God but row ashore”. To me that means that although we’re to pray unceasingly, were also supposed to use the gifts that God has given us. I’ve never been one to sit still and when it’s all on the line, I will row as hard as it takes to reach the shore. So this is my new normal for the next few months. Stay tuned!