The Campath Routine

Angel of Mercy

Angel of Mercy

Journal: February 2002 – I am tired and listless the whole of the next day yet have trouble falling asleep that night.  On Friday we return to the clinic.  I have a new nurse today.  She is recently arrived from Rome, Georgia and has a florid Southern drawl.  Her old nametag states that she is an oncology certified nurse. She is the only one in the office that wears a nametag.  As an employee I had always been ambivalent about nametags.  But now I want to know and call people by their first names.  This nurse’s name is Donna Bush.  By next week we will be privately calling her “Donna the Peach.”  She is immediately warm and seems interested in both Tish and myself.  She talks a lot but always with the purpose of making her patients feel comfortable.  She is the only nurse that I see hugging patients.  In a way she reminds me of me.  She will become a favorite for Tish also.  But this day is similar to the last.  The chills, rigors and fever return.  They are tended to quickly.  When it is time to leave the clinic, Donna pushes me out to the lobby in the wheelchair.  When Tish pulls up to the curb, the two help me into the car.
The next two weeks are much the same.  I have a routine established. Once Tish has to return to work at the end of her holiday, friends begin to take me on Mondays and Wednesdays.  Other friends take me on Fridays.  Our day always starts at the lab.  After three days of answering the same questions in registration, I had resolved to state “Nothing in my circumstances has changed since the day before yesterday.”   But that day the receptionist tells me that the office has preregistered me.  I go straight to the lab waiting area.  I gradually get to know the staff there.  Patty greets me at the laboratory window as I hand her my paperwork.  Doris is the name of the lady at the reception desk whom I gradually chide into remembering my name so I do not need to announce it each time.  After a day or two I tell my phlebotomist that I am a nurse and also draw blood in the course of my job.  She is an older lady named Dorothy.  She is very good and I tell her that she is “an artist with a needle.”  We rotate arms with each visit (nurses talk – a funny phrase if you think about it – rotate arms? doesn’t that hurt!), right then left.  Sometimes I bring them candy or take their photographs.  They all know me by my first name.
I gradually come to know the rest of the staff.  Theresa, Apra, and Monica work the front desk, keeping the records, making appointments, and answering the phones.  Most of the nurses are in fact certified in oncology as a plaque in the treatment room attests.  Patty is very outgoing and keeps the staff in stitches I heard one say.  She does the schedule and is an expert on clinical policy.  Brenda is soft-spoken and a bit shy but compassionate.  Brenda and Donna will be the ones who most often care for me. Susan seems to be the most knowledgeable, sort of the mother hen.  On every visit I uphold my role as educator and quiz the staff on this or that, including more obscure medical terminology.  Susan nearly always knows the answer.  She is a careful, conservative nurse, always aware of the boundaries of practice.  Next to Brenda she is the most reserved of the group.  Another Brenda is interviewed and hired during one of my treatments.  She becomes known as “Brenda II” and is the most talkative of the group.
Jan is the practice manager.  The first time that I meet her is my fourth day of treatment.  Before we begin she sits on the rolling stool next to my recliner.  Jan asks me if I am comfortable with being treated with CamPath in the office rather than in the hospital.  I reply that I am comfortable, that Donna is a good nurse and takes good care of me.  On the third day I had a severe reaction which was difficult to bring under control.  Then the symptoms abated only to reappear again.  They noticed that my fingernails became cyanotic or purple.  My temperature climbed to 104.1.  So Donna did not want to release me until it was less than 102.  I think that maybe the CamPath administration was nearly as difficult for the nursing staff as it was for me.  I hoped that my infusion reactions did not disturb the other patients too extremely.


About Dennis Pyritz

Dennis W. Pyritz, RN, BA, BSN, has been a cancer nurse since 1987 and a cancer and bone marrow transplant survivor since 2004. In December 2001 he was diagnosed with t-cell prolymphocytic leukemia (T-PLL), a rare aggressive form of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Dennis was treated with the then new monoclonal antibody, alemtuzumab (Campath) as this disease has a median survival of 7.5 months. He achieved a 26 month remission but relapsed in February 2004. He was retreated with Campath and went into a second remission. In August 2004 he underwent an allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell transplant with his brother, Mark, as donor. Dennis has remained in remission since - a near miracle. Throughout his career as cancer nurse and patient, Dennis has had the opportunity to speal to both lay and professional groups. Dennis has spoken on cancer topics and survival issues across the country as well as in the United Kingdom, Norway, Austria, Portugal, Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Trinidad, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Cyrpus, Israel, and India.

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