Wednesday of last week was the day we got to go back home from our tiring initial appointments and diagnostic testing at the Duke Clinic in Durham, NC. The plan was to go up there and meet with Dr. Dan George and Dr. Mike Morse to be evaluated for HD-IL2 therapy. We were able to do what we went there to do and was pronounced healthy enough to be able to survive the therapy.
Needle sticks, a stress echo test and some high-anxiety meetings with the doctors made for a couple of tired travelers. We pulled out on Wednesday morning, excited about getting back home to our own bed and to our family and friends. We fired up the car and put it into the wind, thinking we might be heading into some possible rain that hurricane Isaac might be slinging around. The rain didn’t materialize, but something worse sure did.
Jill and I are not into chain restaurants when we’re in a new place. She did some research on the Yelp app on her iPhone and we picked The Bohemian Cafe in Greenville, SC, which is almost exactly half way home. We got to the restaurant at about 2 p.m. for a late lunch. After a great lunch, we shopped for a few minutes in a vintage vinyl record store which is conveniently accessed through the restaurant.
All that was left for us to do before we got back on the road for the last half of the trip was to gas up. Like I said in my last post, just as we were turning into the gas station, a couple of jolts that felt like the transmission was coming apart set me on edge. By then it was about 3 p.m. and I made a phone call to Carlton Motorcars, Inc., Greenville’s Mercedes dealership, which was thankfully only 2.8 miles up Laurens Road from the gas station.
I got David Knutti on the phone in the dealership’s service department. He very professionally gave me a couple of things that I could try that might reset the vehicle’s electrical system and make the problem go away, if it was only an issue that a reset could fix. I told him that we would try those, but that if that failed, we’d be up there to see him.
Sure enough, the quick fixes didn’t work, so we limped up the road, bumping and grinding all the way. Normally my trusty, 8-year-old Mercedes E500 is still so exciting to drive. She is heavy and solid, but is so nimble to the touch. She begs for speed and the faster you go, the more she seems to like it. But, whatever was ailing her made her listless and flat. I was sad about it in a way.
So we rolled into Carlton Motorcars service area, which is in a separate building from the sales end of things. I got out of the car and asked for David. A smart, thin, glasses-wearing man put out his hand to shake and I could see the “it is 3:25 on Wednesday before a holiday weekend and we’ve been slammed” look in his face. I mean, how could he help that? It was true! I filled out some paperwork and he palmed my smartkey and headed over to the car to get what he needed there.
As he got out of the car and turned back my way, the magic started to happen. He had the look of a man who wanted to do something nice for two tired travelers. He escorted us to the nicely appointed, very clean waiting area and offered us snacks and drinks. I eyed the big, stainless steel, high-tech looking coffee machine and walked over to check it out. There were two bean hoppers on top that would, on command, grind either caffeine-free or regular coffee beans. Then, you could select how large a cup you wanted. This is a perfect coffee situation. Since I like my coffee bold, I chose the smaller cup option and hit the button. Less than a minute later, I had a perfect cup of hot coffee. That is a cool machine (I use the word “cool” with permission from Jimmy Elder).
Twenty minutes later, David came back into the waiting area and told us two good things. We found out what was wrong with the car and that they had the part that could provide a fix. Not only did they get us out of there in less than a total of two hours, I got two phone calls on Friday to follow up on their work. One of the calls was from David Knutti. I told good friend, Bill Becker, about the experience that we had a Carlton Motorcars and he did such a Bill Becker kind of thing: He wrote an email to David Knutti and told him that he had served his good friends in a great time of need and the he appreciated how well we were treated.
Usually, when something great like this happens you tell a few friends. I decided to tell a few thousand friends via this blog post, on Facebook and Twitter. That is the kind of customer service that is so hard to find in this online internet world. David, I got the owner’s name from you in order to write her a letter. I decided to handle this in a different way. Please share this blog post with Heather Carlton and tell her you could use a raise in pay. You are a great ambassador for her business.
I’m packing right after I finish this blog post. We’ll be pulling out in the morning for another 8-hour drive to Durham. Some time on Monday afternoon, they’ll insert the picc line in which the drug aldesleukin will be dripped into my heart. Later, at 6 p.m., they’ll turn the switch for the 15-minute infusion of the drug that will likely turn me every which way but loose. Then, every 8 hours they’ll drip in some more until I physically can’t take it anymore. The goal is to take 14 doses, but with my diminished kidney function, it is fairly unlikely that I’ll make that number.
We’ll be in a step-down unit that functions like an intensive care room in terms of the ultra-high level of scrutiny I’ll have. Jill will be allowed to stay with me and unless the rapture happens, she’ll be constantly by my side. One of my best high school friends, Richard Barrett, has told me that he wants to come up to Duke from his home in Greenville and tag out with Jill to give her some respite. You might recall that he did this for us after my drug addled first radiation treatment at Emory back in December of 2010. I still don’t know what I said to him that afternoon.
Needless to say, I wouldn’t just let anyone see me in the sad shape that I’ll be in next week. But I’ve already babbled incoherently to Richard once, so we’ll appreciate his visit one day next week to give Jill a break (if she’ll take it). By the way, other than Richard, I do not want or expect any visitors while we’re going through this treatment. Even though I’m not a particularly vain guy, I will be at my lifelong worst next week, and I really don’t want to be seen as the amorphous, slobbering blob that I’ll likely be.
I just got a call from Sea-Daddy Neal Pope. A sea-daddy is an affectionate term for an older Marine that takes a younger man under his wing to show him the ropes. Despite the glorious performances Neal has delivered in a courtroom, he also knows medical adversity the likes of which are not known by many. Here’s what he told me: “Son, the stadium is full and they just handed you the football. It is all on you now.” Tomorrow, we go. Monday evening is when I and the drugs will be darting through the defending roadblocks caused by the cancer cells that want to bring me down. Your prayers are appreciated as we begin this difficult journey.
I also want to send out a tribute to an old friend, Terry Thomas, who is facing difficult days with melanoma. He has been a warrior for our country and he is facing an enemy he can’t see right now. Please join me and pray for him, too, as well as all the others who are living with cancer.