One cancer patient’s story of being impacted by both hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
Peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT) is an exciting treatment for neuroendocrine tumors (NETs). While considered investigational because of its pending status at the FDA, Europe has performed this therapy with a high success rate for over a decade.
When a May Gallium-68 scan found microscopic tumors, my specialist recommended I pursue this treatment. It took a lot of coordinating, but I was able to access this therapy at a facility in Houston under Texas’s Right to Try law, a preferred option compared to traveling to Europe.
My first treatment went great, leaving me virtually symptom-free and slashing my blood tumor marker a whopping 75 percent. Investigational therapies are not always covered by insurance, so it was also pretty exciting when I found my insurance company paid for the treatment.
Life was looking like sunshine and kittens, so my husband and I decided the next trip to Houston should not be completely about cancer. So, we booked a romantic beach weekend in Galveston before my next therapy, scheduled for Aug. 31.
Cancer has already taught me to quickly develop back-up plans, so when the Houston clinic called to explain there could be a delay due to the approaching hurricane, I jumped into action, developing a Plan B and Plan C. Little did I know after all the events transpired, I’d end up on Plan F.
Plan A - Fly from Nashville to Houston to enjoy a weekend on the beach in Galveston before returning to Houston for treatment.
Plan B - Take the scheduled flight to Houston, drive to Dallas for the weekend. Return to Houston when the storm passes.
Plan C - Drive from Nashville, stopping to visit Memphis, Little Rock and Dallas, where we would wait for the green light.
Plan D - Reschedule therapy until Sept. 12, the one week my husband had an important commitment.
Plan E - Get my older brother lined up to take my husband’s place by booking him a flight out of Tampa Sept. 10. Enter Hurricane Irma.
Plan F - Break my husband’s commitment so he can come with me to Houston and spend the next few days calling airlines, hotels, etc. to reschedule...yet again.
While all of this was unfolding, I could rationalize that it would have been pointless for me to try to enter Houston during the chaos or for my brother to leave his family in the midst of a disaster, but still, it was stressful. Cancer already creates feelings of powerlessness, fear and uncertainty. Piling on more seems unfair. Before I spun into a ball of anxiety, I stopped and gave myself an attitude and perspective adjustment. I am lucky my situation is not critical, because there were/are others impacted by cancer who had/will have urgent situations in the midst of these disasters. Rescheduling is a minor inconvenience when a hurricane is barreling toward your home.
As I rationalized and calm myself, I realized the similarities between hurricanes and cancer. Both are natural disasters, with human-contributing factors. Both are completely unfair. Both can be devastating by taking everything you have. Both have the potential to create resilience. Both can bring out the best in people. Both create perspective because when we or our loved ones are in danger, the stresses of daily life don’t seem so stressful. And both are reminders that there is so much we cannot control.
“If plan A doesn't work, the alphabet has 25 more letters - 204 if you're in Japan.” - Claire Cook