As the World Turns
Editor's note: Peter Freyne had to be hospitalized this week and could not write his usual "Inside Track" column. The following excerpts from his blog, "Freyne Land," tell the story. By press time this week, nearly 100 readers - from Rusty Dewees and Burlington Deputy Police Chief Walt Decker to former House Speaker Ralph Wright had posted comments of support.
January 25, 2007: Yours truly's little life has hit some interesting new ground lately. Right around New Year's was when I felt it for the first time. When I was frozen-in under two feet of snow in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A little soreness in my abdomen. Felt like something swollen. Then a lump an inch or two beneath the breast bone.
Saw the doc at UHC as soon as possible upon returning to Beautiful Burlap. Didn't get my doc, the one who brought me back from double pneumonia in 1995, but others on his team. (In, fact, my old doc, age 43, called me two days ago to tell me he's ceasing his medical practice.)
Anyway, it's been bing-bam-boom after that. Quickly to blood tests and a CAT scan and biopsy and the discovery of a lymphoma - a cancerous tumor. Just like that. The oncologist, the one who specializes in this sort of stuff, looks me in the eye and calls it "75-80 percent" curable.
Let me tell ya, after all those years of writing about the bloody monster of an underground garage that Bill Boettcher and the Boys stuck five stories deep into Hospital Hill, I'm finally getting to become intimately familiar with it. And helping to pay for it . . .
The treatment is chemotherapy for 18 weeks. One gets a one-day-long intravenous dose of four different "drugs" once every three weeks. Yes, my hair will fall out at some point, they say. The fact is, this lymphoma stuff is not that uncommon. And the bloody maddening thing is, they're not sure what causes it.
At the Statehouse Wednesday, several lawmakers shared with me they had spouses who also had a lymphoma similar to mine - "Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma." They did the chemo and are fine today.
Hey, whatever's meant to be is meant to be, right?
Still, it's kind of ironic that just when I was getting sick and tired of covering health-care reform stuff, I'm going to have a front row seat. My doc, an oncologist with two Stanford degrees, is admitting me to the hospital in about an hour. The tumor is squeezing against a bile duct and causing jaundice. If I'm jaundiced they can't begin the chemo. First things first.
I am taking my new Mac Book with me. Just took it out of the box. Unfortu- nately, the early word is, the largest hospital in Vermont, the one with its very own Renaissance, does not have WiFi - nor any Internet access for its patients.
Say it isn't so . . .
And the Healing Has Begun
January 29, 2007: Thank you one and all for your expressions of support, love and good vibes. I may be single and live alone, but right now, it feels like I've got one big family out there and I appreciate it very, very much.
I was a resident of Shep 4 up at the Mary Fanny from Thursday until Sunday afternoon. Got the first full chemotherapy treatment on Saturday. Amazing. Takes 8-9 hours. Four drugs I've never heard of are injected into one's vein. Feels like the fast-growing, fist-sized tumor has already shrunk some.
The treatment and care I received were great. The nurses were very special people - hailed from Plattsburgh to Plainfield. I was in very good hands. And one thing they had in common was they loved doing what they do. They were just like the nurses I worked with many moons ago during my Vietnam War conscientious-objector days at Hennepin County General in downtown Minneapolis. Making such a difference in other people's lives. Being there.
The new "Airport," i.e., Renaissance wing Bill Boettcher & the Boys built, is the butt of many a joke or sarcastic crack. The $60 million underground Renaissance parking garage built into Hospital Hill was coincidentally the target of one letter to the editor in today's Burlington Free Press:
". . . The garage is dimly lit, difficult and dangerous to navigate, and the per-hour rate to park there constitutes highway robbery. The parking garage at the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center is free.
As a woman I feel unsafe in the parking garage because there is not enough lighting and oftentimes there are few people in the vicinity . . ."
But the good news on Hospital Hill is that about 10 days ago FAHC instituted a new chow policy for patients. These days, a patient picks up the phone and calls the kitchen to place their order when they're hungry. Lots of choices. Seven flavors of yogurt to choose from. Three different soups. A Honey Mustard Turkey Burger and a Garden Burger every day. Great mashed potatoes with gravy. A Chef's Salad, a Caesar Salad or a Mediterranean Salad. Three entrées for dinner to choose from every night, plus all kinds of sinful goodies for dessert. And it tasted good, too! I had an appetite because they were loading me with steroids and that stimulates the appetite. (Only criticism: The turkey sandwich was particularly skimpy turkey-wise.) The folks who deliver it all to bedside say the new menu ordering has saved dramatically on waste. Bravo!
Can Internet access for patients be far off?
Monday morning it was out to Fanny Allen for a PET Scan. Nuclear medicine. You're injected with a radioactive sugar, sit quietly in a recliner for 45 minutes - can't even read or write - then lay down and get slid into the big machine for pictures. I laid still with my arms over my head for 28 minutes.
It's supposed to detect cancer anywhere in one's body. Amazing . . .
So, I'm feeling different but OK. Doc said all those years of John Power Irish Whiskey might reduce side effects from the chemo drugs, like nausea. So far, so good.
I'd say a new learning period has just begun in this dude's life. And the good vibes, support and love you guys have expressed and shared has lifted the spirits of this Irishman big-time.
"And miles to go before I sleep." That's my theme song now . . .
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