Cancer patients and travel are a thing. It's true. Trips are planned as happy events to look forward to during the grueling months of treatment. Time away takes on new significance and becomes a higher priority when dealing with a serious illness. Soon after my diagnosis, my dear husband planned lots of trips, scattering them throughout the year. Some would include our children; some would not.
Me: We can't afford trips.
Him: I don't care about money.
Me: I care about money. What do you mean, "I don't care about money? Caring about money is your hobby."
Him: Where do you want to go?
Him: Uhhhh...where else?
One of the trips that we planned was a family vacation to Orlando. We'd leave for two weeks, allowing for our oldest daughter to spend her spring break in the Sunshine State with us.
I was waiting for news from the research nurse at NIH about whether or not I would be accepted into a clinical trial. They had rejected me twice, even suggesting that I look elsewhere for treatment options, but I appealed to one of the doctors to consider my case one more time. Two days before we left for Orlando, I began a novena (series of prayers) to Mary under her title, "Undoer of Knots"* with the intention that I would be accepted into the trial.
It was because of this family trip that I missed an email from the nurse at NIH. On the last Friday in February, an email message stating only, "Please call me when you get a minute" remained unopened until Saturday night. Of course, I would not be able to reach the nurse until the following Monday. This was it! The nurse knew whether I was "in" or "out" of the clinical trial I had been hoping and praying to get into ever since mid-December. My last contact with her had been over a week before, when she had helpfully cooperated in getting my case reviewed for a third time.
Early in the morning on Monday, I followed the daily meditation and rosary for Day 7 of the novena. I left a message on the nurse's voice mail, explaining that I was on vacation and would call her later that morning. Eventually, all nine of us travelers were up, dressed, and fed, so we headed out for the day's adventures at Universal Studios. Patrick and the boys headed in one direction, while the girls went another. After the first roller coaster ride of the day, while waiting for our party of nine to regroup, I slipped away to a quiet spot and dialed the research nurse's number.
Nurse: Oh, Celine! You're in Florida? Is it sunny?
Me: It's great! Very sunny. Do you have a verdict for me?
Nurse: I do. The thoracic team thinks that the node you pointed out will be useable for the trial.
I spent the rest of the day spontaneously shouting, "I'm in! I'm in, I'm in, I'm iiiiiiiinnnnnnn!" I texted the people whose numbers were stored in my phone (there were around five...my phone is awful), and fairly floated everywhere we went for the next several days.
Upon our return home, I realized after reading the mountain of paperwork that awaited me that I wasn't quite in just yet. NIH wanted to do their own set of tests and an interview before accepting me into the trial, any one of which could potentially be a deal-breaker.
Patrick and I headed to Bethesda shortly after returning from Florida. I might not have been "in" yet, but at least I could say that I was "not out". It was enough. We were on our way.
*Catholics pray to saints, including Mary. This is the novena I prayed.