My CO-1686: Tiger “X” Kitten Stumbles Upon a Club Med

Dateline: University of California at Irvine (UCI)

The show goes on! Now we’re in a new location, which features different health care staff, different cafeteria layout, different parking arrangements. The only constants are the CO-1686 protocol, the drugs, and the Tiger X Kitten. That would be me.

From Aurora Colorado to Santa Monica California to Irvine California – You’ve come a long way, Miss Daisy! In a year’s time, the chauffeur’s drive from my residence to the CO-1686 trial site had been gradually reduced from seven (7) long hours to twenty (20) short minutes. How awesome is that! What’s up next? Room service or a clinical trial site in Valencia, Spain. Wishful thinking nourishes a survivor’s psyche!

April 9, 2015 – First day at UCI

I am a driven woman. Literally. When the driver says let’s go, I gits, otherwise I don’t get anywhere! I’m retired, have nothing better to do, so why not rise at crack of dawn with the roosters and grope my way to a sleepy hospital? Like other first appointments, my husband and I arrived way early at UCI. An eerily quiet main lobby greeted us. The members of the working class were still nursing their second cups of hot coffee in their homes.

I perked up when I saw a Hispanic chick sashaying purposefully through the lobby from the front door. When she planted herself on a chair behind the reception counter, I figured she must be the receptionist. She moved a stapler and folders from one part of the desk top to another. At exactly 7:30a.m., her brown eyes turned to mine. I approached her and we did the routine check-in for a new patient – photo identification, insurance card, questions, answers.

“What’s the last name of the lady who facilitated your transfer from UCLA to UCI?” she asked.

I thought for a second, then answered, “I forgot. It’s a Hispanic name.” I looked at my husband. He was no help. I turned my head upward, hoping the name would drop from the ceiling. The receptionist’s eyes followed my face, waiting eagerly, her fingers ready to tap the keyboard as soon as the name stumbled from my lips. Finally, I gave up thinking and deadpanned to her, “How about we just assign to her the last name Perez?”

She threw her head backward in laughter. Good morning, UCI! She phoned someone to get the name. She handed me three pages of printed matter and instructed me to present them to the second floor receptionist. It was now 8:00a.m. and the place crawling with employees, patients, and caregivers.

At the second floor lobby, the sound of laughter rang. I whispered to my husband, “Laughers – my kind of people. I belong here.”

As usual, my volunteer Data Dame duties began with the blood draw. Afterwards someone led me to the intake technician, a frequent laugher. She took my weight, checked my blood pressure, and body temperature. Everything was fine.

Preparations for the ECG followed. The trial coordinator and her assistant instructed me to sit on a chair with a back as erect as that of the Ferdinand Marcos throne.

“I did not know sitting for ECG was an option,” I commented, genuinely surprised. “I had always been ordered to lie down face up on a narrow examination table. And I’ve been around.”

“We can make the chair back horizontal if you want,” the eager-to-please nursing assistant said while wiring me to the ECG machine.

“No, I like sitting. This way I can hit the ground running as soon as you tear out the printout.”

The vision of me scampering away with wires attached to my body and ECG machine made me smile. It brought memories of my failed attempt many years ago to drive the city car away from the gas pump while the dispenser was still in the car’s gas tank.

At this point, the fifth Onc to traverse my path in the CO-1686 clinical trials strode unannounced into the examination room. In deference to him, the two women pulled from me and stood back against the wall.

The Onc, a hottie – think Ben Affleck with a shorter face – possessed the perfect height, the only qualification I look for in a doctor. Doctors and waiters should never be as tall as Kobe Bryant. They are hard on the patient’s neck.

“I’ve heard a lot about you,” Dr Ben Affleck (Dr BA) smiled at me, baring toothpaste-commercial-gorgeous teeth.

OMG, I thought, The past finally caught up with me. When I was on top of my game people asked me to serve on boards. If I did not like the organization, I gave a lame excuse: “You don’t want me to ruin your board’s reputation. I have a checkered past.” Of course everybody knew I was white-lily pure, but one is all it takes to start a nasty rumor.

Dr BA explained that in his office, he listens in on conversations from telephone conferences of the world’s half-dozen Hot Shot Doctors in cancer research. He mentioned my Onc’s Onc in Denver belongs to that elite circle. That blew the case wide open. I imagined Dr BA hearing this: “A former patient of yours is transferring from UCLA to UCI.” The moniker Tarceva Diva might have been tossed around. The circus has come to town!

I confessed to Dr BA that on my own I had stopped taking Metformin three weeks back. My reason: I felt hungry all the time no matter how much or often I ate.

He nodded as he read my log of blood glucose numbers. “They’re normal,” he declared. “You’re right for stopping Metformin.”

“Of course I already know I’m right!” I wanted to snap that right back at him for a little static, but I decided not to. Dr BA might have a mean streak and order Security to haul me out of his face.

April 27 and 29, 2015 First CT Scans, Bloods and Onc Consult at UCI

I was about to meet for the first time the sixth Onc to touch my life in my CO-1686 journey. The health professionals around this esteemed Hot Shot member of the elite group of cancer research doctors had forewarned me about him. “Very serious,” they said.

I took the warning to heart. I put on my serious hat and planned to go toe-to-toe with Dr Hot Shot in seriousness. I rehearsed seriousness. I must confess seriousness is a struggle for me, big time. My face is designed to smile ear to ear, my vocal chords to pipe out contagious laughter.

But, obviously my reputation had preceded me. Dr Hot Shot glided into the room prepared to meet the much-traveled CO-1686 trial participant. He had his humor hat on!

We almost missed each other. Fortunately, he set the pace and I dropped my serious hat in a heartbeat. Between his first banter and my last stethoscope breath, we squeezed in doctor-patient business including: CTscan results – STABLE. Bloods – VERY GOOD.

I’m loving this joint!