Saturday, May 17, 2008

All Business Plus

During the last six months of learning I had head and neck cancer, I am recounting how all the key caregivers along the way have guided me toward beating the disease and surviving the treatments. Not to bore you with the details in past posts of the ordeal, there were some life changing adaptations that took place. The most memorable of the bits and bobs of the entire treatment process were the series of professional caregivers, doctors and nurses, oncologists and med techs I encountered. I really remember each and everyone of the people who aided in my battle. In my estimation, there were primarily two kinds of folks: All Business and All Business Plus.

The All Business people were just that. I remember my first confrontation with the diagnosis (I fainted). The All Business oral surgeon who did the biopsy knew within 2 minutes of examining the x-rays and looking at my tongue that I had squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). Being the All Business type-he told me directly in a no B.S. fashion (much appreciated in hindsight) what I had. This lead me to another wonderful doctor who is an ear, nose and throat surgeon specializing in head and neck cancer. Another All Business type, he told me that I could be looking at a complete tongue removal, neck surgery (radical neck dissection to remove the cancerous lymph nodes) and chemotherapy. I didn't faint. My resolve at this point was to fight like a tiger for every hour, day and month I could get. This doctor performed an incredible operation with the neck dissection that left me with a lot more nerves and feelings in my back, shoulders, arms, face and neck than expected. Clean and almost bloodless, his incredible skill had me on the fast track to healing. His All Business approach was a lifesaver. He also has a pretty cool sense of humor and busted my stones fairly regularly- Upgrade to All Business Plus. As it turns out, the chemotherapy shrunk my tongue SCC enough so that I could keep it.

The next step was to meet with the gastrointestinal specialist who inserted my feeding tube (PEG Tube). She was wonderfully humorous and is definitely an All Business Plus. She made the process very smooth and prepared me for when I couldn't at due to chemo and radiation therapy.

The PEG tube itself was fine, but I had a harsh reaction to having a cold nutrition supplement to drink when I returned home. Apparently, drinking something cold right after the surgery was a bad move. Back to the emergency room and another hospital stay. The folks in the EMT were all business. The folks at the emergency room were dolts and left me in pain for almost an hour. I could hear nurses and doctors and med tech walking around outside this hole of a room for the entire hour chatting joking and generally in no hurry. All the while I was doubled over and nearly passing out from pain. Maybe a third category is needed here- Epic Fail. Yeah, these buttnuggets were the worst of it. Bad dispositions, bad work ethic, I-don't -have-to-care-because-they're-not-paying-me-enough-to-care 'tudes really ruined my day. Saved by the gastro surgeon who put me right once more.

Back to the oral surgeon for teeth extraction so the radiation can proceed smoothly. All Business! The preparation for the next stage was set.

The chemo oncologist and his staff were wonderful. All Business Plus kudos for the way they handled my initial crazy situation and for taking me through the treatment with confidence and professionalism. My initial reaction to the chemo sent me to the emergency room for what appeared to be a heart attack / heart muscle damage caused by the 5-FU chemotherapy drug.

Turns out my heart was fine, but the reaction to the 5-FU mimicked the heart damage. The EMT folks who slung me into the ambulance were All Business. The triage emergency room folks were too. The first set of emergency room goons get the Epic Fail again. After another ordeal with bufoonery, I met a new set of Epic Fail buttnuggets the first night. As I was throwing up every 10 minutes and shivering uncontrollably, I lost the feeling in my arms and couldn't walk. I was in such misery, I wished I was dead. There were two rude-ass nurses. One was a ginormous, hideous crone that must have had a relative in HR. No way could she have got through the hiring process with that level of inhumanity. Why they scheduled her to help ER patients in severe pain, I'll never know. She was reported and reprimanded and the rest of stay was really helpful and good. The caregivers that cared for me the week in ICU were All Business Plus. They genuinely cared about me and were very, very kind. They went out of their way to check on me and give me hope for recovery when I was skin, bones and bad attitude.

After this came the insertion of my chest port. The surgeon was All Business- nice enough fellow, just didn't say a whole lot.

Back to the chemotherapy folks- can't say enough good things here. From the techs who drew blood to the rest of the staff- All Business Plus.

The next group were the home care nurses- All Business Plus. They genuinely cared about how I was doing and made themselves available for my calls anytime I needed some solution or had a question.

The radiology doctor is All Business Plus. Great sense of humor and a no BS approach. The staff at the radiation clinic is All Business. One young lady is super cool- a true All Business Plus. If it wasn't for her refreshing attitude and sunny smile and disposition, this part of the treatment would suck really hard. Her kind words of encouragement, ready smile and get it done attitude is the best I've seen in the entire process.

I didn't mention all the family and friends that contribute to my daily joy. I'll post more on them a bit later. They deserve some special love and maybe some medals for putting up with me. Go team!

What I learned from this experience is that some All Business people are really there for your own good. They may not smile or speak or act friendly all the time, but they are the key people who saved me from an early grave. As I was circling the drain with stage IV SCC in mid-December, 2007, I am now bouncing back a bit this third week of May and will continue to improve. The All Business folks really took care of business. The All Business Plus folks made this ordeal less nightmarish, less frightening and provided hope that one day, I would get through treatment and recover. While this is a life process, I can thank them for their support above and beyond the call. All it takes really, are some sincere kind words, a pat on the back and a joke to make a cancer patient's life a little better. For the Epic Fail buttnuggets, you need to know this now. You may one day be where I was- weak, broke, sick, stressed out and dying. Would you want you to be your care provider? Be kind, life is too short and too precious to muck up.

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