Yesterday, my folks and I went into CTCA for my initial intake appointment. Walking in there as a patient was a very different experience. It's one thing to be there as a visitor or a guest. It's a completely different experience to walk in there as a patient. Not in a bad way; just...different.
Once Mom and Dad were badged up, we were escorted to the clinic. I've only been in there before on a tour, so walking in there knowing that I was going to be seen there was a little intimidating. When I walked in, they gave me an identification bracelet, sort of like the one you get at a traditional hospital. And, it's begun.
We got called back into a room, where there was a very comfortable chair for me and two "normal" chairs for Mom and Dad. Vitals were taken, and the meetings began. I met with several people over the course of the day, but instead of me going to a variety of places to meet with them, they all came to me. I was given a schedule when I got to the room, and they also had the schedule on a white-board outside my room. I knew who I was going to meet with, and when. I will also say that they kept to the schedule, almost to the exact minute. But, if there was someone I needed a few more minutes with, they took the time.
I met with a Patient Navigator, who will be my contact at the hospital to help me answer questions about policy, get clarification about something, help me get a call back from someone, etc. She's super nice, and she and I had a very nice conversation this morning. After her, there was a Nurse Navigator, who's my contact for the medical team this week until I'm officially a patient (which happens if/when I accept the treatment plan next week). I met with another nurse, who made a list of all of my medications. I met with the intake oncologist, who has read through (most) of my medical history and gave me his version, then asked for clarification. He did a physical exam, then we talked some more. After that, the meds nurse came back in and took 7 (yes, seven) vials of blood.
One of the things that my parents and I noticed was their willingness to answer questions. When I indicated that I had a question, they stopped what they were doing and focused solely on me. They answered the question(s), then made sure I understood what they said. I even tested the theory with the intake oncologist, by asking him about something he did during the physical exam. He stopped what he was doing and explained it to me. Unreal - no cell phones, no emails to distract him, no looking at his watch. And, I wasn't made to feel like I was intruding or irritating anyone. Awesome.
Once that was all done and they vampire had taken what she needed, we were taken to scheduling to set up the appointments for the next couple of days. After that, my Patient Navigator Jessica took us on a tour. I had seen the facility (when Kim was there, I became all too familiar with an inpatient room), but my parents had never been there. Jessica took us through the kitchen/cafe area, into the salon (hair, nails, wigs, etc.), to the back of the facility into the massage/chiro/acupuncture, radiation, etc. We went up into infusion (the chemo room), inpatient, outpatient hotel facilities, library, game room, chapel, relaxation room, rooftop garden, etc. It was amazing, and better than I remembered. You can take a tour of the facility by clicking on this link
. I can tell you that the tour is actually the hospital I am being treated in, and the facility is truly as beautiful as they make it look.
This morning, Mom and Dad met me at the facility and we went back to the clinic. Yvonne, my intake nurse from yesterday, met me and brought us back to the room for today. She took my vitals (apparently, I've grown an inch - I'm 5'6", which is the tallest I've ever been....can chemo make you grow?), and we started today's meetings. Naturopath, nutrition, and mind/body. The naturopathic oncologist is a board certified physician, and he works in conjunction with the "regular" oncologist. My favorite thing he said? I will see my oncologist, my naturopath, and my nutritionist each and every time I come in for chemo. No more waiting for weeks to see my doctor. No more coming in on an off-chemo week because there aren't any other appointments. They see me each and every time. Freaking amazing!
I liked what the naturopath had to say - they are going to use the traditional chemo, but complement that with naturopathic remedies to help. For example, I have had an issue with diarrhea earlier this week. Immodium worked. They have a solution that might work better - charcoal. Totally stoked about this!
Nutritionist came in - I was a bit worried that this would be a "Thou Shalt Not" kind of appointment. Was I ever wrong! Rather than asking me a bazillion questions about my current diet, etc., she asked me about my last two weeks, how my diet has change, have my tastes changed, etc. Then, she gave me some immediate relief items that can help with the nausea, smell sensitivity, mouth sores, etc. We will be working together to make sure that I don't lose any weight during this treatment, and that I'm able to eat something. Her words exactly - if cherry pie is the only thing I can eat and keep down, then by all means, I eat cherry pie. Once we get me back into remission, we'll worry about how to eat in a way that can help prevent another recurrence. I like this thought process very much.
Mind/body therapist came in next - our talk with him was awesome. He got a good feel for me (and for my parents), and I am seeing him again next week so he can help me with my sleep issues (I'm having trouble getting to and staying asleep). I think talking with him will be really helpful to my overall recovery.
The past two days have given me hope. Plain and simple. It's allowed me to look ahead at the journey I'm on with optimism. I feel like I finally have a team with me that is actually WITH ME. They are all here for me. Their only focus is my well being, my mental outlook, my health. I am the center of the treatment plan. I normally don't want to be the focus or the center of attention, but this time. It's all about me.
And, it's awesome. Feeling like there is a whole group of people there, focused on me and my fight, is such a fantastic boost. Where I came from and where I'm headed is just unreal. It's like two separate ends of the cancer-fighting world.
Speaking of that, the other oncologist's office head nurse called to talk. She asked what my thoughts were, and if I was planning to pursue treatment at the new facility. I told her that, while I appreciate their efforts in fixing the issue, I couldn't imagine coming back into that office and seeing Icky Nurse. I was promptly told that she was no longer there. Does this make me happy? Yes, and no. No, because I don't want to be the person responsible for someone losing their job. Yes, because my speaking up means that no other cancer patients will have to deal with her again. Regardless, I told head nurse that I think I'm better off at this new place. She understood, and it was done.
So, that's it. I'm with CTCA now. And, I would be absolutely remiss is I didn't thank my amazing friend, Amy, for taking the time to contact the hospital and working the insurance end of things to even make this possible. Without her doing this, I would be facing this weekend dreading the coming week. I would be completely and utterly distressed at the thought of going back into that office. I wouldn't be looking at this fight as something I can win - just something I have to get through. Now - I have hope that I can beat this thing. Amy - without you, I wouldn't have that kind of hope. That kind of optimism. I wouldn't be fighting this with my normal attitude. Now, I can. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart - thank you. I love you, and will forever be grateful to you for this chance.