—  Ken and Vesta  —

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Shannon’s Journey, 18

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Smiling for the camera. And that’s one of the things I love about Shannon, no matter how bad she’s feeling, no matter how hard the chemo is taking her down, when I ask her to smile, she does it and she looks like she means it.

Minutes after this photo was taken, she was hooked up for her second to last chemo session. Only one more. That’s good, but what’s not so good is the after effects of each one are worse than the last.

She wasn’t feeling so good before this one and she was feeling worse after it was over. The end of this part of her journey is hard. Chemo is hard.

It would be great if all she had to do was go home, lay down and try to get better. But she’s gotta work. And even if you feel lower than low, when you’re at work, you gotta look and act like you’re feeling fine.

And she does.

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Like most people, who are going through cancer recovery, who don’t have baskets full of money laying around, Shannon has to depend on friends to take her to and from her oncologist’s, because she’s unable to drive herself home.

And home for Shannon is an hour away from Reno, so it’s a good thing she’s got friends like Kathy, who are willing to take time out of their busy lives to help her.

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Once again, Shannon’s bares her port. This time, before the chemo, it’s to give up a little blood.

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I can’t imagine what it must be like, to have a permanent port—well permanent till you’re through with your recovery—in your body, so that it’s easier for doctors and nurses to take blood from you and to injected medication into you.

I’d just want it out of there. It seems so unnatural. It is unnatural.

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It has been weeks since Shannon’s seen Dr. Reganti. We’ve seen her in the hall, going from room to room, and I’ve waved at her a couple times, but she’s not seen Shannon as a patient, since her first chemo session.

Still, she’s got a bazillion patients and her office had already seen a hundred and sixty before Shannon. To be fair, there are three or four other oncologists who work there, plus several assistants.

Cancer, it seems, is almost like an assembly line business.

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To add to the assembly line feel, on this day, all of the chemo chairs were full, so Dr. Reganti wanted to know if Shannon could go home and come back tomorrow. But she didn’t want to go home, cuz she lives in Fernley, which like I said about is an hour away.

So, they worked it out, but it took another hour, so Shannon didn’t get done till around 5:00.

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Below, is what I wrote on my face book page to go with the above photo a few days ago. I’m reposted it here, becasue I don’t wanna have to come up with new words about how badly Shannon feels right now.

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Here are Shannon and her oncologist, Dr. Sowjanya Reganti, smiling in a photograph taken Tuesday last. And I know I shoulda posted this back on the day I took it. And I woulda, if I coulda reported that Shannon’s doing fine.

But if Id’a said that, Id’a been lying. The truth is, she’s not doing fine. She’s depressed. She aches all over. Her fingertips hurt. Her fingernails are rippling and may come of. Her red blood count is so low that she’s most likely gonna need a transfusion Monday. Her food all tastes awful. And she’s always tired. And she’s got another round of chemo to go, so it’s gonna get worse.

With all that though, I did manage to get a very nice photo of her, but I’m gonna wait a day or two to post it with the next chapter of her journey, cuz I need the words to go with it and I don’t have ‘em right now and if I tried to fake it, I’d just be boring and I really don’t wanna be boring.

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It addition to what I said above, Shannon’s oncologist’s office is a pretty dreary place. Comparing it to her plastic surgeon’s office or even to my dentist’s office, is like comparing Soweto to Beverly Hills.

From what I’ve seen, there is big money in cancer, big enough, one would think that the chemo reclining chairs could have a built in flat screen hooked up to ‘em, so the patients wouldn’t have to bring their own.

And they could offer their patients free coffee, soft drinks and sandwiches. And they could paint the place in sort of a refreshing color. And they could change out the century old recliners.

The only saving grace that place has in my opinion, is the patients. A lot of these people are only buying time, they’re not going to get better. Yet the one’s I’ve talked to have all been friendly and up beat. Smiling even.

But heck, I don’t know, if it was me, I’d almost prefer jail to that place. Well, maybe not, but you know what I mean.

I really don’t know how these patients, these wonderful people, put up with it.

Up till now, the only cancer doctor I had been familiar with was Gregory House’s pal James Wilson. True, James Wilson was a TV doctor and a patient can’t expect the same kind of attention Dr. Wilson gives, nor the same kind of nice facilities Dr. Wilson has, but, come on, they could try to come close.

Anyway, I should stop ranting and once again, to be fair, when Shannon brought of the state of the facilities, compared to what she’d experienced in Colorado, the last time she had cancer and had to go through chemo, Dr. Reganti said they were going to upgrade soon.

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And once, no twice again if you take in the photo below, you can see why Vesta and I love Shannon so much. She’s smiling, despite it all, She’s smiling.

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