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Gee Undergoes Chemotherapy

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Chemotherapy

This page is kind of rough... I've got a lot to add... but I'm going to do it later.

Gee was in the hospital for almost five weeks after her surgery. She had been on track for one of the fastest recoveries from a Whipple procedure— in fact, she had actually started walking the day after her operation. Her recovery was side-tracked by trying to eat a hospital food service hamburger a little too soon. Hospital food, at least if you haven't ever had it, is less than I consider edible— most of the time airline food is a bit better than hospital food— not a good thing.

The deciding factors in picking an oncologist included training, location and familarity with pancreatic cancer. Dr. Roy Beveridge is a Johns Hopkins-trained oncologist and after a bit of research, Gee, her father and I picked him to work with. His practice is based out of the Innova Fairfax Hospital, which is a short drive from the house. Dr. Beveridge has had some pretty decent success against pancreatic cancer, and we had pretty good hopes for Gee with his help. Once she was discharged, we met with her oncologist and planned our fight against her cancer.

There was good news, the surgery seemed to have been fairly successful— the main tumor was removed and the scans appeared fairly clear. There was bad news, some of the lymph nodes that were removed tested positive for cancer cells— it had already made it into the lymphatic system and chemotherapy was necessary. Unfortunately, a really effective chemotherapy regimen for pancreatic adenocarcinoma has yet to be developed. Gemzar or gemcitabine is one of the few chemotherapy agents that seems to some effect on pancreatic cancer, and Dr. Beveridge started Gee’s treatment with a course of chemotherapy using it. Dr. Beveridge had used Gemzar against pancreatic cancer with some pretty good results... no guarantees here... but at least it showed some hope.

Of course, during this time, Gee and I had still been planning our wedding, which was set for early November. One of Gee’s fears about starting chemotherapy and having had the surgery was that her wedding gown wouldn't fit on our wedding day. After the surgery and just before she started chemotherapy, Gee’s weight was down to 88 pounds. When she and I were talking about the treatment schedule that Dr. Beveridge had setup, Gee told me about her fear, and I asked Gee what she had weighed when she had last gotten her gown fitted. She said that she was 109 pounds the week of her last fitting. I promised her that she would be back to within three pounds of that weight the day of the wedding. She asked me how I could make that promise. I told her, "I can because I love you." One of my greatest fears, and one of the reasons I was so adamant about not postponing the wedding was whether Gee would make it or not— this was something that I had never told her or her family— but I had seen the survival rates for pancreatic cancer and I knew the odds were stacked against us.

The most important person, besides Gee herself, in helping me with her treatment was Gee’s little sister. I honestly don't know what I would have done without Michele. Michele and I traded off taking Gee to her doctor’s appointments and chemotherapy. We took turns helping Gee with all of the changes that had occurred since her diagnosis.

In August, Michele found out that her landlord was going to gouge her on the lease renewal— and her least was up in about a month’s time. I suggested that Michele move in with us— partly since it would let her save money towards buying her own place, and partly because it would simplify things for Gee, Michele and me regarding Gee’s appointments. This was probably one of my brightest ideas. She lived with us for about eight months, and now has a pretty nice place over in Arlington.

One of the things Gee found she could laugh about was that here she was, a bride-to-be in just a few months, and she didn't have the normal concern of losing weight for the wedding— being in the opposite and somewhat unusual position of trying to gain weight for the wedding. I guess humor is found in the strangest of places.

One of the things I quickly learned when Gee was undergoing chemo, was how to deal with a nauseous person. This actually came in handy when my friend Katy was pregnant with Charlotte. Saltines are a good thing to keep around... they're good for settling the stomach. I guess knowledge is always a good thing... just sometimes the reasons for learning some things really suck.

Around the chemo clinic, the whole staff knew Gee and I were engaged and were pretty excited about the wedding. The staff always called me Mr. Gee Kim... I've always said that when she and I got married... I took her last name...