During our time together, Steven has gotten booted out of various situations. He got us booted out of our townhouse for radically planting unapproved foliage and maliciously constructing an extremist pergola. He got us booted off a San Francisco cable car for trying, unsuccessfully, to be smart-aleck-funny with an ill-tempered conductor already having a bad day. But so far, may all time favorite and one of the best highlights of 2011 was getting booted out of the Cancer Treatment Center of America. And I mean that in a really good way.
Our entire experience with CTCA had me skeptical at first, because it seemed too good to be true. After an initial phone call by Steven to investigate, the staff at CTCA did all the leg work and heavy lifting to get approval from our insurance company for the visit, made all travel arrangements for us and sent us complete itinerary and informational emails with step by step instructions for our trip. CTCA then initiated all pre-trip research collecting medical data, pharmaceutical information and background facts by phone. For the past 8 years, Steven and I have been solely responsible for organizing all the details of finances, scheduling and collecting data, so this was both a novelty and a pleasure!
Just as promised, the CTCA driver showed up at the Tulsa airport within minutes of our arrival. He relieved us of our baggage and loaded it on to our shuttle, along with the bags of another couple who arrived at about the same time. After getting us situated, he whisked us away to the center. Now I heard staff within the facility refer to it as a ‘hospital’, but from the moment we drove up to the building, I felt like we were on a resort holiday. The seasonal decorations for Christmas were understated and elegant, but still festive. And the lobby reception area couldn’t have been any more inviting. The front desk staff was pleasant and welcoming. They armed us with an informational portfolio that had been all set up for Steven, and a detailed schedule of medical appointments that were set for the following day. They explained that the schedule would be updated several times throughout each day to allow the additions of all suggested tests, therapies or exams that might become apparent during the initial consultations.
We found our room and washed up and then made our way back down to the café. Meals are incredibly inexpensive and are in NO WAY hospital food. They are prepared healthfully, but you’d never know it! There were no overcooked, under-salted, flavorless choices here! The chef at Cafe has done an amazing job of disguising food that is good for you by making it taste like a guilty pleasure. The meals all looked like they just fell from the pages of Gourmet Magazine, and tasted as good as the looked. And $4.00 for a dinner, seriously?
After filling our bellies, Steven and I went back to our room to recover from the trip and to rest up for the following day. The rooms are furnished and decorated like a nice hotel, and the only clues that would suggest otherwise were the bed set-up (one queen and one twin and a leather reclining chair…very smart way to cover all the bases!) and the faux wood flooring that looked great but sanitizes WAY better than carpet! And FYI – the bed was very comfy, like you’d expect in a hotel, not a lumpy hospital bed.
Our first full day at CTCA was just that – FULL. Steven’s schedule began with an 8:45 check-in at the Clinic.BTW, this clinic doesn’t look at all clinical. It’s an extension of the front desk reception area, but with some of the guests in their jammies. We checked in and were immediately collected by a lovely lady who registered us and gave us the run down for the day. She gave a synopsis of the schedule, how it would work, and what to expect, and then promptly turned us over to our Nurse Navigator. From there the meetings came quickly and efficiently. We spoke with the nurse, she interviewed Steven asking more medical background questions, and turned us over to the doctor. After going over our questions, concerns and requests, he did an exam, ordered some tests, made some recommendations and moved us along. The rest of the day became a bit of a blur. We saw a nutritional counsellor, a pain management professional, a naturopathic doctor, holistic healer, an amazing lab technician who performed some kind of magical blood drawing sleight of hand trick that still has Steven mesmerized, and spoke with a Pastoral advisor.
It was a busy day, but at as we were relaxing in our room that evening, we were calm and secure knowing that Steven’s health situation was being scrutinized inside and out, upside and down, body and mind. For the first time, we were having all the branches of medicine looking at all the aspects of current, past and future health problems, all at once, to come up with an overall game plan.
Our second day was a little more stressful, with CT and PET scans scheduled for late in the afternoon…meaning no food for Steven. Being a good wife, I hitched a ride to a mall to hide out and eat when I was hungry! When I got back, Steven was in the Nuker, so I treated myself to a manicure in the CTCA salon. It was a cheery area with windows to the lobby area, but consciously designed with a private area hidden around back for wig fittings. And EVERY one was happy and upbeat. It was like a little oasis of pampering.
Once all the lab results were in, we met with the oncologist assigned to Steven. Dr. River is a blood cancer doctor with years of experience and a back-up staff of holistic, herbal, and dietary professionals who joined us in one big healing free-for-all. It was quite amazing, enlightening and reassuring. There was a transcriptionist who took notes on the meeting, as did all the other caregivers. By the time the meeting was over, Dr. River had assured us that our confidence in our home-base doctor, Dr. Sprawls, was well founded. He gave Steven some suggested treatments to discuss upon our arrival home, with the transcripts of our meeting. The PET scan discovered an issue missed in Steven’s PSA test in the fall, so we were assigned homework! Then each of the other caregivers presented Steven with their recommendations for handling his symptoms, side effects and problems from past chemo treatments…all typed up and ready to go, with contact info for us to call if needed.
I cannot say enough good things about CTCA. In a dire situation, that would be our go- to place! For now, this was the best way we could have started the new year. We returned home with a calmness knowing that all the discomfort and concern was manageable and that our future looks good…and long. Happy New Year!