HealthWell Foundation Ran Out of Funds (conclusion)


Okay, so the Onc’s RN said all I needed to do was drop by their office and sign the document and she’d FAX it right back to Astra Zeneca (AZ), manufacturer of Tagrisso. It sounded so easy. But as it turned out, my “drop by” would be fraught with difficulties, most of them my own doing.  Difficulties are good. They sure make my accomplishment seem more epic.

True to my minimalist lifestyle, I have been without vehicle now for 10 months. I’ve mastered the retirement resort community’s bus system. I took my maiden solo 15-minute trip to Laguna Beach using the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) bus and it worked. I found the way back to my manor on the same day! Buoyed by my initial success, I decided to use OCTA to drop by the Onc’s office, which is in another city. The other option was by taxi. The big difference in the cost of the round trip drop-by: $50 by cab vs $1.50 by 24-hour OCTA bus pass.  I could definitely use the savings to buy me a new string bikini swimsuit.  Priorities, priorities.

I planned the trip.  Actually the OCTA website did the planning complete with maps and instructions.  I packed cut-up apples, cashews, and cheese cubes for snack in case my blood glucose ran low while I was in the middle of nowhere. And of course water. All set with my roommate the backpack carrying the goodies, off we went to the expedition.

It seemed like I was hopelessly lost. I did a lot – and I mean A LOT – of walking to correct my navigation errors.  Finally I made it to the Onc’s office, signed the paper, and headed for the bus to go home. Got lost some more. If I straightened out the path that I had walked, I probably would have reached Canada. But it was so worth the experience and the mission accomplished.  Always in awe of the bright side – that’s me.

The following day, AZ phoned and let me know the application FAXed from my Onc’s office was incomplete. Oh no! Over the phone she and I completed it. The next day, she phoned me again this time for the good news: I am officially in the co-pay assistance program: no need to wait for the IRS document, no need to file my application, no need to call for my refills which AZ – not the specialty pharmacy – will ship directly.  How awesome is that! As I wrote this post, I had exactly 5 Tagrisso pills left. The shipment was supposed to arrive any day.

Saved by the bell!

Please feel free to share your drug co-pay story, if you have any.






Ever Wondered How it Feels to Wear a String Bikini?

WARNING: A photograph that may be offensive to some people appears at the end of the story.

After years of blogging about cancer, the latest update being My Fifth Cancerversary, I suddenly felt extra-energized. I decided to post weekly again, except this time I’ll include topics  on “LIVING LIFE”, true to my mantra, which is a line from my favorite song.  It goes, “…Before my number’s up, I’m gonna fill my cup, I’m gonna live, live, live until I die…” Yes! I’m talking about a life without hang-ups and apologies, the go-for-it kind of life.

You know you’re alive when long-held thoughts still occupy your head. In my case it is about the string bikini. I decided to transform the thought into action and go for it!

Here’s the back story.

As soon as the original song Itsy Bitsy Teenie Winnie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini came out in 1960, I rushed to a seamstress and ordered a bikini swimsuit custom-made for me based on my own design. I was a sophomore civil engineering student then – a young starry-eyed chick pioneering in the male-dominated profession, hell-bent to break with the status quo.

My first bikini swimsuit was more like a two-piece bathing suit, the bottom piece similar to today’s hipster.  It was very tame, but at that time it belonged in the bold category.  I remember wearing it, strutting my 34″-22″-34″ figure, and sashaying to the YMCA swimming pool when the guard shouted at me, Miss, we only allow one-piece bathing suits here!  My swift response surprised even me. I asked, Which piece do you want me to leave on?  Laughter exploded.

I bought a succession of many swimsuits over the years, most of them bikinis. The top seam of the bottom piece kept going father down from the bellybutton but never got as low as that of the string bikini. I kept wondering how I would feel in a string bikini.  It’s strange what sense of security one-inch wide fabric had given me.

Fast forward to the present.

One day, a youngish Anglo man who goes to the same resort swimming pool that I wade in frequently, happily told me: I bought a couple of bikini swimsuits for you to take home and try on.

What? Who is this dude? I knew he had been eyeballing me.  In greater Los Angeles area, because of Hollywood, talent scouts abound, some of them up to no good.  But this man was not the talent scout who, in my fantasy, would propel me to stardom.  In addition to his professional achievements that make his resume glow, he is a loving dad who can buy at wholesale cost several bikini swimsuits at a time for his 18-year-old daughter.  By his estimate, she and I wear the same size.

The man’s generous offer, which I took as a compliment, sent me.  My loss for words made me confess to him:  I don’t know what to say!  He suggested a solution to my problem:  Say THANK YOU.  Oh yeah!  What was I thinking?  THANK YOU, I said and followed it with a flattening blast of a laugh.

I tried the two black string bikinis at home, one at a time.  It works better that way.  One style was labeled “cheeky,” which is self-explanatory.  I settled for the non-cheeky style.  Thus my first string bikini swimsuit and I connected.  Thanks to an opportunity that fell on my lap.


During that dry-run moment,  I so  belonged in the black string bikini. I felt awesome, comfortable and liberated.  I was even motivated to vacuum the carpet while prancing on tiptoes.

How I’d feel in a string bikini is no longer a mystery.  It is so here and now.

Let me know what you think.



Swollen Feet and Ankles

Nowadays, each time I notice any little unwelcome change in my body, my finger is ready to point to cancer and anything related to it as the culprit.  One day last January, I noticed my feet and ankles were swollen, a mysterious condition that I had never experienced before. Having survived many mysterious ailments decades after surviving statutory age, I put swollen feet and ankles in the blame game department. Right off the bat,  I wanted to declare the swelling as a side effect of the Tagrisso pills but I couldn’t.  They hadn’t been shipped to me yet at that time!

As usual, I did my sleuthing. How did that happen? How could I suddenly have swollen feet and ankles? I thought only pregnant women got them. Or women from third-world countries that still have the disease called beriberi. Even when I was pregnant I never had swollen feet and ankles, but my breasts became swollen with milk for the infant right after childbirth. Those I liked because they made me look voluptuous overnight.

I consulted my RN friend in Albuquerque.  Over the phone she gave me a mini-course on swollen feet and ankles based on her education and experience. After the session, you’d think I would have been satisfied and put the issue to rest.  Oh no, not me. I’m an engineer.  I have the need to know.  Why do feet and ankles swell?  To find out, I returned to Google University (GU) and audited the course Swollen Ankles 101.

I searched GU only for what applied to my case. After all it’s all about me, which takes me back to the mother of all disclosures: I am not giving medical advice here. Remember I am a retired civil engineer who at the peak of relevance was only concerned about sewage flowing downhill. And it usually did, and still does, unless someone pumped it out of a place where it is not moving and hauled it somewhere where it can do its thing – flow downhill.

  1. Consumption of too much sodium causes feet and ankles to swell. After reading that statement, the light bulb over my head went like the flashing light on a police car. It made sense! My episode of swollen feet and ankles had immediately followed my bacterial lung infection event. During the coughing disturbance, I needed lots of liquids – water, tea, beer, soups – to help get rid of the mucus from my body.  I toyed with the notion of concocting from scratch the hearty chicken soup that everybody and his brother swear as sure cure for cough and cold but I couldn’t. There was not one dead chicken in the freezer.  The bed also beckoned me to loll. I resorted to canned soups, which had never been part of my eating regimen. For some reason, the canned soups tasted yummy those days, especially Trader Joe’s clam chowder. Its label on the can said, three (3) servings per can. No way, I argued with the label, One serving per can! And I ate the soup to my heart’s content over and over. During the sleuthing process, I re-read the label on the can.  It says one serving contains 800 milligrams (mg) of sodium.  Did the math: 3 servings in one sitting equal 2400 mg of salt. According to the Dietary Guidelines, persons 55 and older should not consume over 1500 mg of sodium per day. Conclusion: I ate waaaaay too much salt over a period of 21 days. No wonder my feet morphed into fat burritos.
  2. To treat swollen feet and ankles, elevation is the key.  Site after site in GU assured me that swollen ankles and feet are common and usually not cause for concern, unless accompanied by pain in other parts of the body or other symptoms that could signal a serious health issue.  No other malady symptoms accompanied my swollen feet and ankles.  After reading the encouraging paragraph, I wanted to do cartwheels to celebrate but I couldn’t.  My feet and ankles weighed like lead.  The theory behind the swelling of feet and ankles is simple and makes sense. Sodium is an element that plays a key role in regulating water in the cells of the human body, among other functions. Excess sodium makes the body hold extra fluids in the cells. Like the sewage in the sewer pipe, the water in the cells flows downhill. Gravity takes the excess water to the feet and ankles. There I had it!  To get rid of the swelling, I needed the help of gravity to return the water back to circulation. But how much more downhill can it be if downhill starts from the head then down to toes?  Solution: elevation!  I got a pillow and put it on top of the dining table. I sat on my favorite chair and propped my feet on the ingenious engineering contraption. My feet were higher than my waist.  I elevated my feet and ankles for 20 minutes every hour that day.  Okay. I must confess. My consultant and GU did plant the elevation idea in my head but I worked out the specs and details of the contraption. Bottom line: Elimination of sodium and elevation of the feet resolved the swelling issue after a few days.

Although I’ve been careful with my sodium intake and generally staying in my good behavior, my ankles still swell occasionally. Minor swelling. It’s a good thing I’m not into ankle bracelets. What I do when the swelling happens is I review the day’s immediate past activities and try to figure out what triggered it. I find that too much walking or prolonged sitting or standing causes it. Who knows! But surely, one thing happens when I elevate those feet up a few times for 20 minutes each time: The fluids mosey on back to circulation and allow the ankles to look sexy again…to a certain segment of the population. So I read.

Moving on After the Storm

My Octo’s sudden demise was like another wayward wind in my life.  It blew in and blew out, and once again, I’m in the corner of Healthy and Happy, amazingly standing upright, with not a tress of silver hair out of place. It happens when the serial widow believes she can walk on water from the eye of the storm across to dry land. It’s all in the head!

I’ve had 2 blood tests in the CO-1686 non-trial without Octo.  By the way, both times, Dr Brevity assured me, Labs are good. In Octo’s place as caregiver was my baby sister who is 7 years younger than me, size petite small, colors her shiny page-boy hair squid-ink black, wears junior style fashion, and dances like Emmitt Smith should be tossing her up in the air in Dancing with the Stars.  But I have an edge: I am a retired successful professional engineer. Big deal. She is a retired successful attorney! Ah, I remember, Youth’s inexperience is no match to the cunning of old age.

In the 60’s and 70’s I was a young chick pioneering in the engineering world which was then controlled by men.  As such, I encountered one spirit-crushing setback after another after another. It was in those years that I learned to vacate an adversarial situation quickly, let the past run through cleanly, conserve energy for the next battle, and eventually win the war.  Becoming a widow again 12 years after the first widowhood would require the same modus operandi if I choose to enjoy the stroll on the last mile of my life.  And that’s what I choose.  Sulking is so not me. Thus, the motivation behind this post:  I’ve accumulated so many nuggets of wisdom over a huge slice of a century that it would be a crying shame if I did not share them with those who give a damn. I am also kind of running out of justifications for my narcissism!

A few days after Octo’s death, my sister and three of my best girl friends flew or drove in from Dallas, Las Vegas, and Albuquerque to distract me from the isolation of grieving.  Upon their arrival, I noticed their furtive glances the first time I blasted a flattening laugh.  Is this a grieving widow in need of distraction? They must have wondered.

The ladies discovered that I have reinvented myself as Interior Designer Extraordinaire.  For a complete change of atmosphere, I bought a tiny house.  For the first time in my life, here is a house that is clearly mine, not my husband’s and mine or ours. It’s all mine to play with and in.  It reflects only my taste, which we do have to redefine taste.

In the Great Room, my bffs and I did my yoga poses together and delighted in the sounds of bones creaking.  Let’s go dancing, They offered after scouring the social activities in the newspaper of the over-55 gated community where I reside in Southern Orange County, California.  They did not have to drag me kicking and screaming.

To the dance we went. Thank goodness we have reached the age where the  male-female partnering rule has been bagged.  Amidst traditional dancing couples, we swung and swayed, boogied and chachaed until sweat beads formed on our foreheads. In between numbers we sipped water and ate cookies and raisins.  Yes, raisins in tiny corrugated paper cups. What were the refreshment committee members thinking? Soon, the dance event ended. It was 9:00 pm!  It happens when too many old people populate a retirement place and they need to be in the  snoring mode long before midnight.

The next item on the agenda was to establish a new routine, to find a group of fun people, those who share each other’s interest. The village boasts 200+ clubs and organizations that cater to all possible interests of humans and animals.  Dancers, knitters, bible thumpers, cat lovers, Republicans, horseback riders, photographers, health buffs, grievers, bridge players, ham radio operators.  Name it, the village has it.

The Foodies Club got my attention.  In its welcome material, the club defines a Foodie in a  long, drawn-out manner, which translates to a person who is extremely interested in food.  I attended a meeting to scope the club out. For an hour, while eating gourmet ice cream topped with a concoction chosen from an array, I listened to reports on existing restaurants closing, new restaurants opening, food service businesses for the home-bound, curious, or lazy, or all three, and an announcement about an upcoming Moroccan dinner.  The Foodies seemed a happy lot but they are no match to Cannabis Club members in the giddy department.

Whichever groups I decide to entertain myself with will have to wait.  Before I settle down to a new routine, I’m spending time with family and friends who have been very supportive. I’ll also re-establish old connections that had been disrupted. Then back to Southern Orange County for retirement resort living at its best. So the commercial says.

Bottom line: It’s all in the head. I can be as isolated or as involved as I choose. All I do is get a mindset, then say, Let’s do this!













My CO-1686: How About ’em Shingles?

The year was 2013. I, freshly annointed Queen Diva Poksa, was happily ramrodding the Inspire blog Tarceva Divas and Dudes (TD&D), when one day a mysterious rash appeared on my tummy. The inch-wide belt of tiny purplish red blisters wrapped across my belly button from one hip to the other hip, ruining my pole-dancing plans. I described the rash on the TD&D thread, hoping someone who had experienced the same Tarceva side effect would share his or her coping secret. Instead of advices, I received a scare. One diva said my descriptions fit meningitis rash. I told Octo about it and true to our characters, he dragged me to the car, put the pedal on the metal all the way to the emergency room (ER). The ER doctor declared the rash “acute dermatitis” and shooed me off to my Onc, who immediately exclaimed,”Shingles!”

It’s now 2016 and safe to say that my Onc knew zip about shingles. He was dead wrong. I did not have shingles in 2013. I’m absolutely sure because I’ve just recuperated from shingles. Shingles is like orgasm; you’d know when you’ve had one. But the comparison ends there. You’d never want shingles anytime soon or ever again.

I learned from my alma mater Google University (GU) that it’s extremely important to take antiviral medications within 72 hours of the onset of shingles. How did I know facial shingles was knocking at the door? I didn’t because I had never had one. All I know is that the top of my head suddenly became ultra-sensitive to touch. It drove me nuts thinking, Could this be Stroke? Metastases to the brain? My inner genius solving the global warming problem? I took a couple of Ibuprofens and hit the sack. In the middle of the night, a painful sting on the end of my eyebrow above my nose yanked me from snoring. I audited additional courses at GU then shocked Octo with an announcement early that morning. “Let’s go see Dr GL at Urgent Care. I believe I’m getting shingles.”

My self-diagnosis was spot on!  I wanted to high five Dr GL but decided not to. He might feel threatened by the competition. He started me on Valacyclovir  – perfect timing – within 24 hours of the onset of shingles. The drug does not kill the virus; it stops the virus from replicating, thus decreasing the individual’s suffering. The shingles virus just runs its course; there is no cure for it. Why are incurable maladies chasing me as my age careens toward a hundred?

I also found out from GU that shingles occurs when the virus that causes chickenpox starts up again in the body. After a bout of chickenpox, the virus “sleeps” or stays dormant in the nerve roots. In some people, it stays dormant forever. In others, the virus “wakes up” when disease, stress, or aging weakens the immune system.

I learned further that shingles occurs in different parts of the human body, affecting one side only, along a nerve line. NFL great Terry Bradshow shows one example in the TV ad that peddles vaccine for shingles. In my case, the shingles virus temporarily homesteaded on my face, installing red relief maps on my  forehead similar those of Mikhail Gorbacev’s birthmarks.

Shingles inflicts the worst pain I’ve ever known and I’ve experienced a lot. I had had a full-mouth gum operation, hysterectomy, goiter and cataract surgery. I had delivered a baby the natural way. This revelation should surprise no one because this senior babe is waaaay past the age of acne.

One conversation during my late pregnancy in 1974 is forever etched in my memory. Hours before my labor pains began, a friend asked me, “Do you want your husband to be in the delivery room with you?” What was she thinking? “No!” I deadpanned.  “I don’t want my husband there, I don’t want the doctor there, I don’t want me there!” But I couldn’t do childbirth in absentia. I had to be there. Women who have experienced natural childbirth will know the facial shingles pain as I’ll describe it. The headache was extremely excruciating it was like delivering a baby through the ear canal. If I were a horse, I would have been shot dead already.

The shingles virus finally ran its course.  My face looks nearly normal again. People do a double take on it now because it reminds them of the mean mama-san in a Jackie Chan movie.

The shingles event capped my 2015 fourth quarter from hell that started at the end of  the Shanghai/Tokyo CTscan celebration trip, which gave me a bacterial infection, which was disposed of in two days by my immune system helped by the antibiotic Azithromycin. Then I paid the price for Azithromycin’s help: two weeks of malaise from its knock-down side effects.  Then while my heroic immune system was resting, the chickenpox virus rose from the dead and harassed my face. All these things happened just because I had celebrated my CO-1686’s latest stable CTscans! Fortunately, being the self-proclaimed guru of positivity, I dwell on the awesomeness of the first three quarters and the knowledge acquired in the fourth quarter of 2015.

I’ve just finished dusting myself up and am now ready to face the new year 2016.

The moral of the story? What doesn’t kill you makes you strong. Happy dance, Feisty Heifer!

Happy New Year!




The Secret at the Reunion

My elementary school classmates and I love reunions. We are among the few people on earth who first met in grade school and reunite every year for decades. Our group’s name, “Bundok Society” translates to Society Up the Hill not because our families belonged to the proverbial “shining city on the hill.” It’s more simply like, our school was built on higher ground. The English word “boondocks” came from the Filipino word “bundok,” which the American GI’s picked up while fighting side by side in the Philippine mountains with the Filipinos during the war. Okay, so much for the earth-shattering history lesson from the “swami” today.

In 2013, we held our reunion just outside Los Angeles in a classmate’s home. The motif was Hawaiian. All the gals, except one, came in colorful ankle-length muumuus and the guys in boring black or navy blue island prints. Men generally don’t get too excited about wearing reds and and pinks. The only woman who shunned the floor-length muumuu was the beauty queen (BQ) of our younger days. She looked ravishing in a loosely fitted above-the-knee shift dress with dainty flower designs in pastel blues, greens and lilacs – exposing slim shapely legs. The guy near me at the buffet line whispered to me, “Do you notice all the women except BQ are covering up their fat knees?” I tried to kill him with the how-dare-you look. And we laughed.

I took the “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach about my lung cancer. While I admit to being a glutton for attention, a reunion is simply not a venue for cancer talk. Yes! Amazingly, my shameless self-promotion has limits.

The reunion, which centered around picture taking; wolfing down whole steamed lobsters, barbecued pork ribs, mangoes, and rice cakes; and re-hashing decades-old stories ended in talking about the 2014 reunion!

Months after the gathering, I accepted the guest-blogging gig at the University of Colorado Hospital (UCH) Cancerblogs. I agreed to write under my real by-line, which necessitated coming out of the closet of my aliases “poksa” and “celpeggy.” When my first UCH guest blog came out, I included the reunion gang’s de-facto fearless leader in the e-mail distribution list. She forwarded my guest blog to the rest of the reunion aficionados. After reading my cancer survival story, all, except one, got excited. The “reunionistas” started making concrete plans for the next reunion!

The one exception in the excitement department emailed me. To respect the confidentiality request, I’ll call this person FD. That would be “Filipin Doe.” This person is a cousin of Jane and John, the notorious members of the secretive Doe family. FD wrote that two years ago nodules showed up in FD’s lung x-ray. A pulmonologist has been monitoring FD’s CTscans and the nodules have grown and increased. FD was supposed to have another scan soon and confessed that since the first x-ray, FD has been a wreck.

FD and I connected because we are of kindred spirit in lung disease. The difference is, everybody knows mine is lung cancer. Nobody knows FD’s disease. As an Oncology degree holder from Google University, I’d say that all FD has is bird caca infection. A nodule is not cancerous until a biopsy says it is. Of course, my guess is as worthless as any out there.

After a couple of weeks, I emailed FD to check on the diagnosis and to offer reassurance that if cancer is the word, I’d be ready for conversation. No response from FD. I followed up my emails with two phone calls. Both times FD ignored me. So I quit! A Good Samaritan can only do so much. No more Miss Nice Senior Babe. No more Google University’s Compassionate Alumna of the Year. I could only hope that if FD has cancer, FD would read my post Maybe I can help save a lung.

Our group held the 2014 reunion recently in Las Vegas at a classmate’s home. As usual, we shrieked at the sight of one another and launched into the hug-hug, kiss-kiss mode, like people do when they have not seen each other in a week. “Glittery” was the wear motif. There was not much we could do with the theme. We all looked our boring best in dull shimmering tops.

FD was there. We hugged a little longer and a tad tighter, but discreetly. Nobody noticed. When the embrace loosened up, I whispered to my comrade, “Does anyone here know?” The answer was no. “Mum is the word then,” I assured the secretive one.

After feasting on tender beef chunks swimming in coconut milk sauce, oxtail and vegetables smothered with peanut sauce, baked salmon topped with some kind of sauce, and a ham the size of my thigh before Metformin tweaked my figure, the reunionistas repeated stories that no one gets tired telling or hearing. Cancer talk was practically nil. Before the event ended, the society established the coordinates of the possible reunion sites for the next two years.

My husband and I left the party minutes ahead of time. But first, I gave each reunionista and each forbearing spouse a big hug and a word or two to which each responded with a word or two. FD and I promised to keep in touch.

My CO-1686 Dateline: West Coast

I’ve taken my act to the West Coast – closer to Hollywood – by popular demand from my fans. That would be my husband and my son. The growth in the fan department has been anemic, but the quest to be discovered continues full speed ahead! The move from Albuquerque, NM to Southern Orange County, CA certainly would cut down our house-to-clinic mileage, save on hotel and gas expenses, and give me generous access to In-and-Out Burgers. Let’s not forget sushi bars in every street corner. I’m hooked on raw Omega-3. But of course, I’ll miss the world-renowned Good Doctor. We did not have the opportunity to do the “abrazo-beso” kind of goodbye but we managed to email our sentiments. I’m sure he’ll not miss me, but I’d bet there’s a spot in his busy brain for Brazen Tarceva Diva. There are not many of that ilk floating around.

One would think CO-1686 is CO-1686 anywhere – inside or outside the United States, on the Rocky Mountains, or at the shores of the Pacific Ocean. The trial honchos in UCLA own me now. Starting from Cycle 9 of the trial, my official nose-pullers will be the trial site healthcare professionals at THE UCLA. Go Bruins!

My first visit with the New Good Doctor (NGD) started one week early. I had to make sure all the medical records were transferred and referrals for insurance purposes were submitted. I signed more papers than the law allowed. Then, as the appointed hour of eyeball-to-eyeball meeting with NGD drew closer, the physician liaison emailed me instructions consisting of reminders about the papers that I had already signed, all medical records that needed to be transferred and insurance documents. Belts and suspenders kind of thing. The instructions also included a map of and written directions to NGD’s office, a sheet of paper showing the parking rates and methods of payments, five pages of medical history forms that I seem to fill out every time I step inside a hospital zone, and a frightening e-mail consent form that instructs a patient in painful details how to compose and use an e-mail according to California Healthcare Law. I’m already missing the more democratic emailing process at the Rocky Mountain site!

October 8, 2014

WOW is the word for my first day at UCLA! The beauty and efficiency of the facility blew me away! When I went from Albuquerque, NM to Aurora, CO, I, the hick from the sticks of the medical world, immediately saw the difference. I thought, Whoa, this is how the big boys play. Then UCLA! I said WOW, this is how the bigger boys play. Believe the rating system!

The day started with the Medical Assistant showing me, a new patient, around. There’s coffee or hot chocolate there, he said. I liked that. Then a Med Tech, a lovely Peruvian young lady, took my vitals: Blood pressure super good; weight where I want it to be after 15 pounds lost; height no shrinkage no gain. Then she did the ECG. Perfect. She did not do a second one after two hours. Beginning Cycle 9, only one ECG is done.

While I was still lying face up on the examination table, Miss Peruvian drew 15 yes, fifteen, vials of blood. I wondered what happened to TEN, the number for the earlier cycles. While it did not hurt, it seemed like she took forever. My husband told me later that he watched the bloodletting process and noted that my blood flowed rather slowly. My blood had gotten thicker in the west coast! Maybe it’s all the menudo and wasabi that I’d been consuming! We decided later that next time gravity might help speed the flow in the sitting-down position.

Then came the Trial Coordinator with more paperwork to sign. She said there have been amendments to the trial protocol to which I needed to agree. I came to UCLA with an agreeable frame of mind so I went signing and initialing away. Everybody was happy.

And drum roll….entered the new Good Doctor! A young man with a shock of dark curly hair framing a handsome face, he was a hottie! He has the perfect height. I have a thing against doctors or waiters who are too tall for their jobs. Obviously my Onc’s Onc and he had had a small conversation about the new girl in town (that would be me) and he smiled a lot baring a beautiful set of teeth.

We reviewed my glucose numbers. Fasting glucose up to 150 is good but he wants daytime glucose readings to be under 200. He said Metformin 2000mg will make that happen. I talked to him how Metformin gives this bitter taste in my throat, as if I had been licking a tin can of sardines all day. He prescribed the time-release version, which he said, is easier on the digestive system. He prescribed Flonase for my post-nasal drip. I can’t convince any of the Oncs that the post-nasal drip is a side effect of Metformin. For his final act, he went through the stethoscope motions on me.

With that, we planned on seeing each other in another three weeks at which time I get my nine-week scans.

I had a sense of excitement leaving the new clinical trial site after the first day. I got the cartwheel feeling again, but man, LA traffic is not conducive for that kind of activity.