After a quiet three month respite Luiz had to return to his cancer doctor for a check in. It is a two day process. First he has to go to INCA (Brazil’s National Cancer Institute, in Rio) to have his blood drawn to run the numbers. Then on the following day or so he returns for his scheduled appointment to get an update.
By now Luiz is accustomed to the 80 minute bus ride, to the point that he can fall asleep after boarding and wake up just before the hospital. But you never get accustomed to spending time in a public cancer facility. It can be a real body blow to your otherwise steadfast optimism and practiced tranquility.
On Tuesday Luiz and I made the trip to INCA for his 1:00 p.m. appointment. Unfortunately for us it was a day filled with drama on the hematology ward. There were a number of priority patients with late afternoon appointments that came in early and were seen in front of those of us scheduled to be seen right after lunch. We waited for more than two hours for Luiz’s name to be called. (Understandable, but not fun.)
Good news: Luiz’s numbers remain steady. There were barely notable increases in a few areas, but nothing calling out for attention. His physical exam showed no growth in lymph nodes. All good. As always Luiz and his doctor shared a few minutes of pleasant small talk, checked in on vacation plans and exchanged kisses and hugs. We are to return in another three months.
One other note about INCA. A few weeks ago I was in Paraty with my friend Beth and her daughter Cece. We were sitting at an outdoor luncheonette enjoying a caipirinha and struck up a conversation with a man sitting near us. Turns out he was the president of the Portuguese Hospital in São Paulo (apparently one of the larger facilities) taking a few days off with his family. Without tipping my hand I casually asked him what he thought of INCA in Rio. He said he hated to admit it (because the rivalry between Rio and São Paulo is such that residents of either never confess to the superiority of the other) but that INCA is the best there is, even better than anything in São Paulo. “That’s nice to hear,” I said.
While the news remains very positive, as I mentioned above, it always takes a toll on Luiz to have to wade into the CLL pool, even to receive good news. Please send some love his way.