Chapter Five - 5FU (June – September 2019)

March 08, 2020

- 24 min read

The Great Cancer Adventure

Chapter Five - 5FU (June – September 2019)


Because my platelets are so low, I need an injection of something that will boost those. The catch is that this cannot be done until I'm unhooked (from 46 hours of Folfox) which means we stayed at CTCA in Zion, Illinois until mid-afternoon Saturday, rather than being at home mid-afternoon Friday afternoon. And, until my platelets are higher, that will be our lot next visit as well. An alternative, if I continue to have low counts is to drop the infusion that causes this or take a break altogether for a few weeks to let that rebound.

I can continue the Folfox infusion without this WC booster or take this in pill form, and we met with the naturopathic person here to help boost the White Cell count and that should help. Disappointed, but there it is! Just another rest stop along the journey of The Great Cancer Adventure.


We have just returned from another round of treatment (Folfox) at CTCA in Zion, IL, where we (and I pointedly use first-person plural, since The Champ is on this journey with me every step of the way) had a stumble, one perhaps I should have seen coming, but frankly did not; my labs were so low in certain critical areas that I needed an “injection”. This injection, however, cannot be given until 27 hours after Folfox has run its course, which takes 46 hours, so we spent more time north of Chicago than we were expecting.

When told I was to receive an injection, I concluded (not unreasonably I think) that this would be something in a syringe, but it wasn’t; and when, a couple of regiments and 18 months ago, I was given one or two of those, that’s exactly what was done. However, apparently because the chemo I’m now receiving is so powerful, all the various add-ons, including this one, have to be done separately. Specifically, this device is about the size of a container of dental floss, it affixes to your skin and pokes you when the time is right. We were able to drive home right after it was attached (after the Folfox was disconnected), and it worked just like it was supposed to work, which was of course welcome. After the injection’s been delivered, one simply peels off the device, exposing a small needle that I didn’t even feel pricking me. We have a sharp’s container and carefully placed it inside that and moved on.

Hopefully, this will give me enough of a boost that I might not have to have too many of these just now, as this does mean that we spend even more time in Zion, Illinois. It’s lovely there this time of year, perfect weather in fact, so it could have been much, much worse, but there’s not all that much to do, perhaps especially when one is dragging like I am during treatment. We did go to a movie one evening, seeing “Rocketman”, which was fun and a perfectly acceptable popcorn movie. Good to get out.

CTCA there in Zion is the flagship of their five major facilities, the others being Atlanta, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Tulsa. National Cancer Survivor's Date & Week was while we were there most recently, and the national celebration for people who have been five years or more cancer-free was there and then. Happy for them, genuinely, though it does not look like this is in the cards for me. Sure, I will see this journey to the very end, no matter what that means, not looking away from what's facing me, and even though there are routine and frequent breakthroughs, there's not currently any "magic bullet" for what I have, which is adenocarcinoma of the esophagus. No one's talking cure or remission, but instead good quality of life for three-five years. And I'm up for that.


Just got a call from Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA). Because my platelets are even lower than they were the last time we were there for treatment, The Champ and I are not headed in that direction this week. Depending on what my labs show on Friday, we might be delayed for even longer than that. Certainly, we do not mind staying home a little more over the next couple of weeks, but this does mean than I am not receiving any treatment during this period, and the cancer's likely not taking any time off. Disappointed and concerned of course, we're in this for the long haul, and this is just another stop along the way.


Betty and I are gone so often these days to CTCA north of Chicago (six hours by car each way) that it feels like we have a Time Share in Zion, IL. The treatment's going well, but the deeper I get into it, the more accumulative are the side effects, e.g., tingling and numbness in the tips of fingers and toes, just to name a couple. I've had four of this round of six treatments, and just before #7 (which means in a month or so), they'll do another scan to see about progress. Based on this, I may/not need to have another endoscopy and cryotherapy session to reduce the size of the esophageal tumor.

Next time we go there, I'll see my new oncologist, as the old one relocated to Atlanta a month or so ago to go into private practice, his wife having secured an internship in her specialty. During this interval, I've been seeing a PA who seems to know what he's doing, so I don't think I've lost any ground, but I'm looking forward to meeting my new Oncology Doc. She has a number of persons singing her praises, so, perhaps especially since the entire staff there is so well-vetted, I'm expecting a smooth transition and someone who knows her stuff. Still, no one is talking cure or remission, but I do seem to be doing well, again, except for some relatively mild side effects.

I still go to the gym 4-5 times a week (I know this because I keep track of it!), study German 30 minutes most every day, and am involved in an on-line Military History Class taught by a friend of ours.


The further I'm into this second round of Folfox, a prescribed chemotherapy, the more troublesome are the side effects from one of its components. Indeed, I can continue to abide the tingling and numbness in my fingers and feet, which has gotten progressively worse the more times I've been given this, but at some point ignoring these complications might perhaps be imprudent. At what point does something increasingly annoying become more than an irritant?

Since being diagnosed almost two years ago, the primary problems continue to be various side effects, which is not such a bad deal, considering the alternative. I am, for example, finding it more taxing to do certain exercises at the gym, but am still able to do them, for which I am grateful. A lot of people with Stage 4 cancer cannot, and I could not towards the end of my first chemo/radiation round.

Having discussed all this with the new Oncology Doc and her care management team, there are options after this should the risk seem greater than the reward, but before we've taken any action regarding treatment, I've got an upcoming scan to see how my primary (esophageal) tumor and the various other bits are doing. I'm expecting reasonably good results or better, but life has its little surprises. In any event, I'll post an update once the test has been done. More will be revealed.

8/26/2019 (NYC Trip)

Having gotten some encouraging news from my last scan (no sign of the cancer's spread and the primary tumor is even a little smaller), we decided to take a theater trip to New York and stand in line daily at the half-price ticket stand in Times Square and take our chances. Sure, there's no guarantee of what we would see, but one of the surest things in life might be that whatever you see in NYC, Broadway or Off-Broadway, will almost certainly be well done.

Since we arrived on Monday, the evening when most shows are dark, we had fewer choices than other afternoons and evenings, so we opted for something we had seen before, but which had been revived, “Rock of Ages”. It was loud, raucous and energetic, so it was wonderful. I stayed awake until midnight! And walked 4.5 miles, hobbled actually, on my cane! It was delightful! A lot of the hair-band music that show salutes is not something I’m interested in, but some of these songs are among my very favorites.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, is only evening performances, from what we have seen so far (one of the web sites has a chart, which helps us plan this trip), but even so, we'll go to Duffy Square in Times Square and see if something interesting has a matinee, as not everything is listed. For example, there's something we read about in last night's "Playbill", "Lover", which sounds interesting and is right across the street from our hotel at 9th and 42nd. For that evening, if we can afford it, we’ll opt for one of the hottest tickets in town, “Hadestown” (no pun there, right?), since we figure that, if they have any holes in their audience, they will be early on in the week. We leave for STL on Friday about midday, so we have tomorrow and two possible performances on Wednesday and Thursday. We really ought to be able to see six shows in four days, but we’ll see.

I'm interested in theater, both dramatic performances and musicals, though not as much as The Champ, (then again who is?), so I'm getting something out of this just as she is. Nevertheless, this trip is meant to be a treat for her, so she's deciding what we see. Indeed, I have a couple of preferences, but, fortunately, they coincide with hers. With my being ill and on such a short leash until this latest scan, while we've had loved ones visit us a couple of times in the last year or so and that's been rich(!), we haven't done much on our own, and travel was one of our goals after my retirement. No complaints here, as I have a great life, but there have been a few surprises.

8/27/2019 (NYC Trip)

We're in the Pod Hotel at 42nd & 9th. The room has a total of 121 square feet, which includes bath and queen bed, so there's not a lot of space, and there are also far too many hard, sharp corners to suit me. Features of the mattress include rounded edges and a rounded, convex top, so when I roll over over last night, I fell out of bed and struck my upper arm on one of those corners. Thought for a moment that I had broken it. Tried to figure out how this could have happened. And hit the same spot a second time, just as hard. Not being an absolute idiot, I didn't try a third time. I plan on placing a chair next to my bed, so I don't roll onto one of those corners again.

For me, "Hadestown", this year's hot ticket, like "Hamilton", was memorable and well-executed, but I couldn't hear much of the lyrics, so I understand its fans and its critics as well. I recall Alexander Hamilton from American history and every time I look at a ten-dollar bill, but my knowledge and recollection of the Greek pantheon of gods is more or less lost in the mist of memory. The book works hard to bring all this to life, however, and it succeeds well enough for one to follow the story. Make no mistake (even though no one that I heard walking out of the theater was humming or singing a tune from the show other than me), it had its musical moments, one of which was “Whatja gonna do when the chips are down, now that the chips are down?” It’s one thing to have a plan in the event of a worst-case scenario, but it’s an altogether different thing to act when you’re face-to-face with the worst of all possible circumstances. I think I’ll carry that with me until my string plays out, no matter when that might be.

The play does some other clever and amazing things. Among the clever were, like in “Cabaret”, the use of a narrator/MC (Hermes) who helped set the various scenes and drive the story; the incredibly deep voice (a good twelve octaves lower than Leonard Cohen’s on his last recordings) of the performer who played Hades; and the prescient current event reference to the importance of a wall to keep undesirables out, which fit neatly into the story and didn’t seem at all forced. Among the amazing were the use of rhymes in dialogue that sounded at once simple, pure and ethereal and also elegantly Shakespearean as well; and the challenge to the protagonist, which was that, if he were to save his true love and himself, they could leave the underworld, but they had to walk in single file, him ahead of her, and he could never look back. Now there’s a test of a young man’s devotion and his faith in his beloved, for she could depart their path of her own or become lost, and only she would know what happened along the way until the journey was over! There’s a metaphor for you! We splurged on this show (our discounted tickets were four times what we spent the night before), but I would gladly see this again for the language alone. Tomorrow and Thursday, we’ll try for a matinee and evening performance, but, as always, what we see is predicated on what is available and at what rate.

We're walking a lot here, of course, over 4.5 miles both days so far, with more yesterday than the day before. Exercise never seems to be a challenge when in Manhattan. For a present for our upcoming wedding anniversary, Betty bought me a Tissot pocket watch, the third one I've owned. I'll try not to lose this one.

8/28/2019 (NYC Trip)

Not having traveled to New York much for business during my last couple of years of work, somehow I missed it that, after eight decades in Manhattan, Carnegie Deli closed. I did find a decent Reuben, however, for dinner last night and had a good lox and bagel for breakfast this morning.

Having fortified ourselves, we went foraging for tickets and ran into high prices and long lines at the discounted ticket kiosk at Duffy Square when there were no lines yesterday or Monday and there just weren't any bargains for those shows that did have seats. So, we went directly to several theater box offices and took our chances. We got tickets for today's matinee performance of "Betrayal", a dramatic play well-received in London, and tomorrow night's "Ain't Too Proud to Beg", a musical about the "Temptations." And, back at Duffy Square, we splurge a bit and bought tickets for "Tootsie", which was not high on our list, but well recommended by some theater people we met.

"Betrayal" was, frankly, a disappointed, as this 90-minute play had a good many long, lingering looks, so the actual dialogue might have been only a couple of dozen pages, with many of these lines repeated by one actor after another. "Tootsie", however, was a joy, as it was very well written and very well executed. Betty enjoyed it without reservation, but I could not entirely get beyond the fact that something as well-crafted as this was derivative, rather than a completely new work as it should have been. This could have been a story for the ages, had it not been a revival or a reboot of a tale we already knew. But then again, that's what Broadway has become all too often, just another "corporatization" of something that ought to be entrepreneurial. Disney, for example, seems to be everywhere with "Aladdin", "Frozen" and "Lion King" playing in major venues, one of which is Disney's theater. Mickey, that damn mouse, seems to own "The Theater", or at least The Musicals, these days.

8/30/2019 (NYC Trip)

The only matinees today are for shows we have already seen or do not care to see, no matter the cost, so no Broadway until this evening when we see "Ain't Too Proud". Until then, we amused ourselves with "Blinded by the Light", a film by the same director who made the delightful "Bend It Like Beckham", which is about a Pakistani-Brit teen enthralled with Bruce Springsteen. While it's come and gone to/from the AMC and Regal Theaters nears us, it was on a screen in both of those chains only a block from our hotel. It was a musical of course, and it was just great.

The only thing wrong with "Ain't Too Proud", is that this number was not sung, but used as an encore of sorts when the band, who had just been introduced, played it as a raucous instrumental. This show won a Tony for choreography, and the dancing was even more spectacular than what the actual Temptations showed us in their day. Also, this story too used one of its characters (a founding member of the group who stayed the longest, way past those who died of drug/alcohol overdoses and ravaging diseases) to not only keep things moving but to also make the point that it's not at all a simple thing to keep something going for as long as the Temptations kept theirs going at a high level of quality. All too often, perhaps especially in creative endeavors, humans seem to determine to engage in conflict when they desperately need to collaborate. For all their accomplishments, that the Temptations lasted as long as they did – and they're still going strong today – is rarer than all their awards and accolades.

And that’s as good a place to stop as any. We’re in for the night and leave tomorrow morning to go back home. We’ve had a blast here. We’ve seen six shows, one of which was a drama, one of which was a film, and four of which were Broadway musicals – “Rock of Ages” which I would see a third time; “Hadestown”, the Hot Ticket on our pre-trip wish list; “Tootsie”, so good that it disappoints it’s not completely an original work; and “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”, the show at the top of our list. Except for only a very few ill and/or tortured souls, we've met friendly, outgoing people here in mid-town Manhattan in shops and byways and in the Theater District in particular, where ushers have been amazingly receptive to our requests for handicapped seating to accommodate my hip. We’ve been out walking way past our usual bedtimes, sometimes approaching midnight, and the sidewalks have been crowded and not just with those leaving theaters. Simply people of all kinds living their lives. I’ve often thought that if there was one place I would move to, just to live there, it would be New York, but I know I won’t no matter what; it is, however, my very favorite place to visit, and I don’t want to spoil that. Yes, this trip has been for The Champ, who’s always good company, and I am a very lucky man to have her in my life, but it’s also been a great trip for me. She loves Theater, and I love New York. Except, maybe, for the Yankees and the Mets.


Almost to the day, two years ago I was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Sure, I've been through the wringer but am well enough now to work out at a gym 4-5 times a week. Today, weights, was almost sufficiently sweaty to where you could read clearly what's otherwise hidden in the fabric of the shirt The Champ bought me: “You Can Go Home Now.”


Just back from the latest trip to CTCA. Labs were great, and except for the continuing tingling in my fingers and feet, making it difficult to button and unbutton anything, side effects are more or less in check, so there’s little to report. I saw the Cardiologist here, just to check the box really. I gave the version of this back in March but here’s a more thorough report: After one of my first endoscopies here, I waked to a bunch of docs in scrubs and masks, one of whom pointed a finger at me and said, "You are in Afib." And soon I was admitted for 0bservation for less than 24 hours. During this time, they took my vitals several times and all was well, so I got out 23 and a half hours later. About the only thing, this accomplished was having Betty sleep uncomfortably on a couch and both of us having to stay another night. I did make an appointment with a local cardiologist from Mercy Hospital (and that bill was botched, which was hardly a surprise and mentioned during one of my Mercy rants. My only problem with the oncology care there is that it seems far too much off-the-rack to suit me when I want something more tailored, so I continue to favor the CTCA patient-centric approach; however, more often than not there's been a problem with their business office.) He also did an EKG and an exam and didn't find any evidence any problem. He did say that sometimes when Afib occurs after a procedure, it's the result of anesthetics, not something perhaps that anesthesiologists are eager to stipulate. This was in April. Since the CTCA Cardiologist was the one who prescribed some medication (beta-blockers but not blood thinners, as the latter comes with more risk when having a port), I saw him yesterday to tick the box, just as I said. He didn't find anything either, so it looks like I don't have a heart problem, at least not one that has manifested yet.

I get a scan next time we got to CTCA, to see where things stand and also the GI Doc for a possible endoscopy and cryotherapy. Again, at least in theory, for some good while, if not forever and anon, if the chemo can keep the primary tumor from spreading, the cryotherapy can, when indicated, (that is, when I have difficulty in swallowing) burn another hole through the mass inside the esophagus. If not forever and anon, perhaps we can keep this up for a few years anyway, but as always we'll see.

The trip went so well that the big news is that, rather than coming home that afternoon, we stayed over Thursday night and saw “Downton Abbey” at one of the nearby mall theaters. There was an especially clever bit of storytelling done at the beginning, before the beginning really, when two of the actors narrated a few minutes of summary which was helpful for those who had seen the series and also for those who had not.Then, right into the story. Never seen this done before, and nicely done. Others, if not intimidated by the excellence of its writing and execution, will copy it but likely not do it as well.

Tornado warnings last night and the one before. We're staying on the sixth floor of the Guest Quarters in the hospital, and this time our room has a 180-degree view of Lake Michigan in the distance. Plenty close enough, however, to see thunderstorms brewing.

This weekend the Champ has a Sprint Triathlon (shorter distances than an Olympic, a Half and a Full), and I’m coming with. Least I can do.


Saw the Orthopedic Surgeon on Monday about my right hip, the one that was dislocated in December 2017 and has been giving me some trouble, more or less since. I’ve also been having some recent pain in the left hip, something I mentioned, so he x-rayed both. The left one looks good, as does the right one, so from his perspective I’m in good shape, though he did go along with the PT for the right hip; since chemo, he reminds me, can do a number on connective tissue, I need to make certain I’m as stable as possible. I’ve already connected with the PT I used last time and see her next week (first available slot), as she’s been trained in both Ortho and Oncology. Always dangerous to tell a PT you think you could do more, something I said last time, and she responded that she was not going to do that due to my injury. Maybe this time though. Like so many things, we’ll see. I can lead a full life while using a cane, but I would like to get the wobble out of my gait, if possible.

The Ortho Doc said that the pain in the left hip, due to its location, was likely bursitis and suggested that heat might work better than cold. I haven't used a hot pad on that hip yet (after all, why should I listen to him, just because he's the expert, right?), but I have used ice a couple of times, and that's worked, so I'll stick to that at least for now. Also, there are a couple of stretches Betty and I learned from when I was still running (I've done 5 marathons to her 48!), but don't want to push this, as it might put too much of a stretch/strain on my right hip. I'd like to have this fixed before I see the PT so that we can concentrate on my right hip, but I need, foremost, to be patient. The left hip will work itself out and I'll move on.

Although it's been a couple of months since my Chemo contained any Oxaliplatin (my Folfox, without the Oxaliplatin, is now 5FU, a great name for a cancer therapy) which was dropped due to side-effects and progress in tumor shrinkage, but the tingling and relative lack of feeling in the tips of my fingers and toes (along with clumsiness in using a keyboard!) is still with me. This neuropathy is supposed to run its course, but sometimes it does not. Certainly, I hope this is not a permanent condition, but the longer it takes to return me to normal, the more likely is that outcome. Buttoning shirts, for example, something I used to be able to do with facility is now a chore. I'm still studying German on-line, but it takes much more time, due to typos, to cover the same ground; I could learn a lot faster if I could "keyboard" quicker. Then again, everything takes more time than it used to take or should take.


The Ortho Doc said the pain in the left hip, due to its location, was likely bursitis and suggested heat might work better than cold. I haven’t used a hot pad yet (after all, why should I listen to him, just because he's the expert, right?), but I have used ice a couple of times, and that's worked, so I'll stick to that at least for now. Also, there are a couple of stretches Betty and I learned from when I was still running (I've done 5 marathons to her 48), but don't want to push this, as it might put too much of a stretch/strain on my right hip. I'd like to have this fixed before I see the PT so that we can concentrate on my right hip, but I need, foremost, to be patient. The left hip will work itself out and I'll move on when it does.

Although it's been a couple of months since my chemo contained any Oxaliplatin (my Folfox, without the Oxaliplatin, is now 5FU, again a great name for a cancer therapy), which was dropped due to side-effects and progress in tumor shrinkage, but the tingling and relative lack of feeling in the tips of my fingers and toes (along with clumsiness in using a keyboard!) is still with me. This neuropathy is supposed to run its course, but sometimes it doesn't. Certainly, I hope this isn't a permanent condition, but the longer it takes to return me to normal, the more likely is that outcome. Buttoning shirts, for example, something I used to be able to do with facility is now a chore. I'm still studying German on-line, but it takes much more time, due to typos, to cover the same ground; I could learn a lot faster if I could "keyboard" quicker. Then again, everything takes more time than it used to take or should take.

Had my first of eight PT sessions today with the PT who knows not only orthopedics but also oncology. Went well. More to follow.

In reflecting where we are now in the Great Cancer Adventure, just a little more than two years after having been informed of my illness (September 2017) and also approaching a year and a half since coming to CTCA (June 2018) now seems like a good time to talk more about the six-hour drive each way, among other things. In the first place, this is not a big deal for either of us. Oh, to be certain, we would prefer a shorter drive. But both of us grew up in families that often took car rides of that long or longer to see family. Betty's family drove a couple of times a year from Boston or DC to Chicago, and mine drove from Nashville or Charleston to Memphis over two-lane highways, both through the night. So this is no big deal. Perhaps one day it will be, for whatever reason, but it isn't now.

Having made this trip so often, we've seen the scenery outside our windows, mostly corn and soybeans in the rural parts of Illinois between St. Louis and Chicago, go through the cycle of plowed ground to harvested crops, so it's like we've been driving through the seasons; and having seen this firsthand, we don't need to be told how farmers are doing, i.e., this year, many of the crops were planted late because of heavy spring rain. Even so, the harvest looks promising as long as there's not an early frost. Or any short-sighted and fool-hearted trade policies.

We've been through some weather, taking these trips, like the polar vortex which venture south as far as St. Louis earlier this year. Our travel schedule was such that we left St. Louis just as the PV was receding, so we missed the very worst of it, but still the temperature of the ambient air outside our car was well below zero as we drove north. We took extra blankets and a comforter as a precaution but never had to use them, fortunately. Tractor-trailers, we noticed, were about the only other vehicles on the Interstate 55 with us, and many of them were parked on the side of the road, dozens of them in fact along this 350, plus or minus, mile trip. Turns out diesel engines have a greater propensity to freeze up in very cold temperatures than those running on gasoline. I never knew that. Apparently, many of the truckers didn't either. Since Betty has been trained to unplug me from chemo at home, there's the problem of what to do with the chemo bag, tubing, etc. The 46-hour chemo pump comes with a postage-paid box for shipping it back to the manufacturer for re-use, so that's no problem, and none of the chemo flows through it, so there is no contamination unless there's a spill. The needle goes into a sharp's container each time, which we keep until it's full. And all the tubing, etc. goes into a plastic hazard bag, double-sealed, and then locked in the trunk of the car we drive to CTCA until our next trip when we turn it into the ER there.

Weird that all these precautions are taken for something which flows directly into the port leading to my heart, but we’ve seen the blisters it can cause when a drop lands on skin, and, except for the side effects, the chemo doesn’t seem to be a problem for me. Still, weird. Creepy even. That’s my take on all this. Hers is that the needle disconnect would run more smoothly if I were to leave the room when she does it. Actually, I’d prefer that as well, but, unfortunately, I do need to be present.

And speaking of side effects, while I can now, after over a month of having been off of the offending component of my chemo cocktail, drink cold beverages, my favorite being ice water, I still have the peripheral neuropathy in my fingers, feet, and toes. Sometimes in my nose and chin as well. All that's supposed to go away, eventually, but sometimes, I've already been warned, it does not. One of the manifestations of this condition is that I often drop things I'm holding, not being able to feel where they are, and some previously simple tasks are now more difficult. Buttoning a shirt, for example, is best done in front of a mirror.

My tolerance and taste for spicy food has more or less returned to where it was before the fall of 2017, at which time I lost it completely and fast. Nevertheless, I've been growing peri peri peppers (Bird's Eye Chilies introduced to South Africa from India by Portuguese traders hundreds of years ago), and, unlike 2018 when we didn't get much yield, there's a bumper crop this year. After laying aside some seed for 2020 (since it looks like I might still be around then to grow them!) I'll make some peri peri sauce to eat over the winter and give some peppers to one of Betty's co-workers and save some for the kids. I learned about peri peri sauce and peppers when Betty and I joined Elizabeth and Sam, pre-Ramona, in South Africa (we also went to Brazil in 2014 with our friend, Steve) for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the penultimate one to date in which the Men's Team has played. Since then, however, the US Women have won two World Cups. Just saying.

STL is getting an MLS team, which is exciting news, but the women’s team here, the Athletica, folded several years ago. We had season tickets and, consequently, several times a year saw some of the very best athletes in the world play their sport. I do not understand why more men don’t follow women’s soccer; it’s different, yes, from the men’s game, and. yes, the women, except for perhaps the very best of them, could not compete with men, but most men could not hit a fast-pitch woman’s softball either and would look silly trying. In any event, the Athletica are long gone, almost certainly forever, but I still miss them and lament the loss. But I digress.

We’ve met in passing a number of people at CTCA who have some interesting stories. Like the couple who told us that, in their home town, when the husband’s doctor delivered the bad news, the Doc looked down at the floor between his feet rather than into his patient’s eyes. Another newcomer had been given two weeks to live by his local oncologist and had been told to simply go home and wait to die. Another person we met told us her doc at CTCA and she had decided she needed to halt treatment for a while, which might have been a tough conversation on both ends. Not every story ends happily ever after.