Mary, the receptionist at Tunnel, smiled as Ed and Pattie came through the door for what hopefully would be the beginning of Ed’s final chemo cycle. Ed had just begun to feel better three days ago from the effects of the last chemo cycle four weeks ago
At last, within two days, chemo would be over and maybe never required again. Ed’s thoughts were surrounding that thought as he and Pattie waited for a technician to call Ed back for blood draw.
Finally, Gina showed and called for Ed to accompany her to the lab for the blood draw. Ed’s blood workup was showing promise, but his white cell count was very low. Within four weeks, Ed’s white cell count had gone down to 2,500 from 4,200. His neutrophil percentage was down to only 35.6. Following the next two days, they would be even lower.
As Ed returned to the waiting area, his thoughts turned to his friend John. Ed had visited John just the day before and knew the end must be near.
Nurse Lisa then came a called Ed back to begin his infusion. Ed and Pattie had come to recognize and know many of the nursing staff over the past four-and-a-half years. Ed had taken his usual laxative/stool softener hoping to avoid the inevitable constipation that came with chemo and was already dreading the upcoming sleepless nights he knew the next three days would bring. Taste and appetite had just returned to Ed a few days ago after the last chemo cycle. Nurse Lisa took Ed’s vitals and began “hooking up the plumbing” for what hopefully would be the beginning of Ed’s last chemo cycle. Then, there is was again, the undefinable emotion that Ed had come to know as HOPE. Hope was still there and had sustained Ed and Pattie through much during the last four-and-a-half years. Hope was still there. Hope stirred Ed’s faith that all was going to be well.
The drip time for Ed’s “cocktail” was much faster than it had ever been and they were out of the infusion room within two hours.
Back home, Ed tried to play chess on his computer but did have not the necessary attention span for any satisfaction from his favorite board game. He felt like napping, but sleep would not come. Pattie offered to fix him a snack but he declined and drank a glass of tea. Although not feeling too bad, yet, Ed was looking forward to tomorrow and wondering if it would the last day of chemo forever.
The next day came after a sleepless night and Ed returned to Tunnel with Pattie for what they hoped would be the last of chemo for a long, long time. Everything went as it had the day before and the drip rate for Ed’s “cocktail” was the shortest of all time; they left within an hour and a half.
Pattie dropped Ed off at home and went on to her job managing a fragrance store in the local outlet mall. Ed was alone at home feeling tired but could not sleep and could not eat anything. As he sat looking at TV without comprehending what was on the screen, the phone rang, it was the son-in-law of his friend and neighbor, John. John had finally succumbed to the ravages of liver cancer and passed away during the night.
Ed was not surprised, and neither was John’s family. It had been expected for the past two weeks. Ed began thinking, “Hope, what good is hope? “Hope did nothing for John.” Ed’s reaction had come at a moment when he dropped his resolve, feeling sorry for himself and John. By his “faith” Ed knew this was not right. John had hope, Ed gave him hope when he was first hospitalized and diagnosed with stomach cancer. John took Ed’s example of remission, faith and hope before Ed relapsed into CLL. John still lived on enjoying chocolate meringue pie. Then the liver cancer was diagnosed. But John had strong faith and exuded hope.
Ed wrote a eulogy to John that was very much appreciated by John’s family.
The family was still in the process of making arrangements for John’s funeral and promised to let Ed know the details later that evening. As it turned out, the funeral was to be in John’s home town, a Maryland suburb of Washington D.C. in two days.
Ed and Pattie went to the funeral, together. It was 176 miles from where they lived and was three hours each way. Ed was without very much sleep for the past three days and his body was beginning to ache from the Neulasta shot he had received just the day before following his last chemo cycle. The Neulasta was to encourage Ed’s bone marrow to produce new white cells and a side effect was “bone ache.”
It was a long and trying day for Ed but he wanted very much to be there and honor his friend one last time.
“Stay strong. Have faith. Trust God. Keep believing. Never lose hope.”