As in a tasty mix of talk

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Every Day Is Saturday

There is no substitute for adventure. You’ve heard this adage since childhood, right? If, like me, it resonates with your impulse to bypass that office job and head for Europe with a backpack, you probably assumed it originated from one of those pillar-of-thought guys like Socrates or Plato or Aristotle.

Not so. It was penned by the otherwise unremarkable, 20th Century journalist Mel Ellis, who gilded his lily of a phase by continuing to write: “It is as fundamental as hunger. It is as compelling as love. It is as necessary as air. It is as exciting as Saturday.”

We get it, Mel. But adventure isn’t necessarily a set-your-hair-on-fire and jump in where angels fear to tread event. It can be multi-faceted, tempered with an impulse for self-preservation. It can be an effort to save your life instead of risking it. That’s how I see my participation this past January in the Immunovative Clinical Research FDA-approved cancer drug trial. For me, it really was as exciting as Saturday.

I have great friends and family members, so none of them tried to talk me out of choosing the drug trial instead of leaving my fate in the computerized hands of City of Hope. But I know that some wondered why I was willing to defy conventional medical protocol by becoming a drug trial subject. Well…

For those who are too busy to click the Immunovative Clinical Research link to learn how the trial works, here’s the “For Dummies” version: It educates one’s own immune system to recognize cancer cells and kill them. If this sounds too good to be true, or too easy, be assured that it is a truly radical approach. It is the only drug trial currently in existence that seeks to train the body to kill its own cancer cells instead of poisoning them (and the host) with chemicals. Not surprisingly… there isn’t one dime of American drug money funding the trial. That, for me, was a no-brainer inducement to participate.

The trial organizers keep a low profile. I found Immunovative Clinical Research accidentally, while researching cancer-suppressing herbs on the Internet. I clicked their modest link and went straight to the fireworks: The creativity and stunningly simple logic of the Immunovative concept triggered my sense of adventure and, yes, stirred my hope. I admit that hope is not the most objective filter for decision-making. But neither is despair.

Some of you may remember my recent poem (the prior post on this blog), “There are no plastic bottles in heaven.” During my initial interview at the Immunovative Clinic, when I quoted this line to Dr. Har-Noy, the M.D. who conceived the Immunovative method and designed the trial, he looked into my eyes for several audible clicks of the second hand on my watch before saying, “My hope is that you write many more poems about your life on earth.”

Know how it feels when you are stopped short by an unexpected display of beauty, such as a smog-free night in Los Angeles when a few fierce stars shine through the light pollution? That’s how Dr. Har-Noy’s compassion made me feel. When is the last time a doctor inspired you with his or her empathy? Yeah, me too: I was six years old and got a sucker for not crying after my shot.

Unlike the many clinics where I have undergone cancer treatments ranging from surgery to radiation to chemotherapy, where I have shared space with brave but often waxen souls who looked more like their own ghosts than patients, the atmosphere at Immunovative Clinical Research is upbeat, as if everyone is participating in a hopeful new approach with the potential to revolutionize cancer treatment, eliminate the misery of chemotherapy and save countless lives (we are). The doctors and nurses and staff laugh a lot, and interact with patients on a frank, personal level. (I know which staffer hides a tattoo and where. I know who calls President Obama President Obummer. I know who conducted impromptu philosophy classes for his college frat bros so they could pass mid-terms and remain on the football team. I know who has a photographic memory and could unexpectedly repeat my idle reference to Burbank as “Borebank.” I know who comes in at 4:00 am to answer emails. I know who works until midnight. And everyone, and I do mean everyone at the clinic, knows how sensitive I am about my weight, and politely deducts two pounds of “boot weight” when I step off the scale.)

One of the things I most appreciated about the clinic is that I never felt like a number there. (Although, I later learned, I DO have a number: I am the 25th subject). Not once did I feel rushed. The intake orientation alone lasted five hours and answered all of my questions, including some the doctors encouraged me to ask. And I never felt hustled. As part of the orientation I was repeatedly asked if I understood that I had other treatment options. And, just to make sure I didn’t proceed because I thought I had nowhere else to go, the clinic required me to visit an unaffiliated local oncologist to discuss those options.

Although potential side effects were disclosed at each step of the trial process (fever, chills, aching muscles or joints), the effects I experienced were so benign that an Alleve and a good meal made them go away. Word, brothers and sisters! (During the trial I think I also re-grew most of the hair I lost while taking oral chemo last November.)

If all goes well and the trial succeeds, I will announce well in advance the date of my appearance on the Today Show Special that proclaims a cure for cancer (I will be the one wearing homemade jewelry and smiling like I have just won the Powerball Lottery). If it doesn’t, I will move on to the next life-affirming option for treating my disease, which may be a second go-round at the clinic. If nothing else, participation in the trial connected me to a level of personal courage I didn’t know I possessed: I had to trust my instinct that I could recognize a promising concept when I saw one. I had to overcome my misguided belief that courage consists of “taking one’s medicine,” as in submitting to the punishment of chemotherapy, as if there were some inherent virtue in suffering. (There isn’t, no matter what the Pope says.) I had to say, “no thank you” to the established medical protocol for cancer treatment, not caring how the computer at City of Hope rated my decision. I had to stop being a good patient and become a bad girl, one with the stones to choose adventure.

I will know by mid-March if my immune system has responded to the treatment by “reducing my tumor burden,” a cool, clinical phrase that sidesteps the assertion of a cure. So, how do I feel about my medical adventure so far?

Like every day is Saturday… even Monday.

Dr. Har-Noy, this poem is for both of us:

There is no sane reason to
Fall in love again, to sail to that
Flat edge of earth where
Touch and desire still shimmer on the
Bent horizon, and the drift of
Someone else’s breath feels like
Everything, yet nothing at all. But
I can’t ignore him, the way he
Possesses his nature with
No intent to impress, how he
Overlooks his own virtues as if
He is comfortable without them, but
Always notices mine. I love the way
He suggests I open a door between
Memory and this instant, dismisses
the prejudice of mind over flesh, so I
Remember what any genius but no
Madman could ever forget: How
Love reinvents the world, how it curves
The dead-end edge of not enough into the
Starrier sphere of tomorrow,
And lets the flattened day slip away.

15 Comments:

Blogger Judy Williams said...

I'm speechless, so I hope you don't mind me quoting and reiterating what your beloved doctor said:

“My hope is that you write many more poems about your life on earth.”

May this Valentine time fill your heart with love and overwhelming joy. Oh, and some chocolates wouldn't hurt either.

xoxoxoxo

12:30 PM

 
Blogger Gladgrower said...

I have great joy in reading your post :)
I also see how very alive you are, and how you wear it so well!
{{Keep at it, Precious!}}
Thanks for sharing your pearls.

12:31 PM

 
Blogger altadenahiker said...

You're beautiful!

Forget Mel's quote, this one is far superior: "I admit that hope is not the most objective filter for decision-making. But neither is despair." I'm going to remember that always.

For such a light and willowy girl, you're a true heavy weight.

1:15 PM

 
Blogger Laurie said...

I love you so much. You are the most beautiful person I've ever known.

3:15 PM

 
Anonymous PuaJan said...

Your words and writings have a unique rhythm that goes from your heart through a readers ears to their heart...a wonderful gift

Jan

3:42 PM

 
Blogger Dixie Jane said...

My cup runneth over. Your words are pure joy. Your face of hope numbs my own pain and I feel blessed just to know you, Pat Kaye. Anything I might say is redundant. You are so beautiful and I love you very much.

10:28 PM

 
Blogger Greg said...

"That's a great post. Here's a website on developing
photographic memory. Check out the tips that they offer. They worked pretty well for me. It's at http://www.photographic-memory.org"

12:40 AM

 
Anonymous stacyj said...

You are an inspiration.
Happy Valentine's Day.

7:29 AM

 
Anonymous NikkiS said...

I agree with everyone...the post leaves me speechless! Very beautiful.
It is not just your sense of adventure that enables you to fight this disease in innovative ways...it is your COURAGE. And you have a TON of it. I am so proud of you and thankful for your courage. You are my hero :):)

11:41 AM

 
Anonymous StacyT said...

I had the pleasure of visiting the clinic with Pat a couple of weeks ago. Normally, I wouldnt call anything medical a pleasure. However, the doctors and nurses here are a different breed. They make you feel like you matter to them. They explain everything in detail. They know their patients. One of the first things the doctor asked her when we went in was if she had written anymore poetry.......amazing....not, where does it hurt, or have you had a bowel movement (although those questions came later!)......Because of their hope and attitude, Pat's hope and attitude was lifted. Her spirits were up and she was in full fight mode. For this, I will be forever grateful to them. My aunt is a fighter, a force to be reckoned with, always has been. These clinical trials gave her hope and she did the rest....again I say...amazing...

8:57 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://libertarianrepublican.blogspot.com/2009/02/australia-arson-suspect-arrested-muslim.html

8:05 AM

 
Blogger mimi said...

Totally devine: you, your words, your heart, your ability to share this experience with us. thank you.i'm looking forward to the today show appearance!

love u!

8:40 AM

 
Blogger Eladio said...

Hola Patricia.espero que recuerdes espanol.Me llamo Yayo te recuerdo del tiempo que pasaste por Valle Gran Rey. By the way that litle town will never forget you.I wish you well, and if possible would like to see you some time....hasta pronto Yayo

8:28 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Survival group against God?? LOL. Good luck with that. Truth is, no one knows the exact time this will happen except the man upstairs, however, I firmly believe that there are people placed here by God that post the warning signs and it's up to you to take heed.
[url=http://2012earth.net/your_new_chakra_system.html
]Nibiru
[/url] - some truth about 2012

12:26 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not sure where to post this but I wanted to ask if anyone has heard of National Clicks?

Can someone help me find it?

Overheard some co-workers talking about it all week but didn't have time to ask so I thought I would post it here to see if someone could help me out.

Seems to be getting alot of buzz right now.

Thanks

12:32 AM

 

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