Erin. She’s a returning patient here, one who has been coming back and forth to the Rubio Cancer Center for several years now to get treated for Hodgkin Lymphona. She cornered me in the laundry room one morning weeks ago, but considering she’s one of the few female patients not wearing a bonnet on her head, I took to keeping up conversation with her over the next few weeks, even inviting her into my room one day to play with Botas. This morning was the first day all week that I took a meal downstairs, and we had a conversation about TNF numbers.
me: So, how much longer do you have to be here? Do you know?
Erin: We leave on Wednesday.
T: Oh, so then you got your TNF level down to 20 again?
E: Actually, it’s at 11.
T: 11?! That’s great. I thought the goal was 20.
E: Well, 10 is considered remission. I wanted to stay until I got to under 10, but my husband’s grandmother’s 90th birthday party is this weekend, and I don’t want to miss that.
T: Of course. The whole purpose of being here is so that we can enjoy our lives out there.
T: I was a little disappointed when I got my TNF level this week because I have been here almost five weeks now, and it’s only at 66…and I’m supposed to stay until it’s down to 20, right?
E: Well, I don’t know about your case, but the first time I was here, I left when mine was still in the 60’s.
T: You did?
E: Yeah. It started at 92, and I left a little over two months later. And every time I come back for more treatment, the number continues going down.
T: Now, when you return, is your number still the same as when you left, or does it shoot up a little?
E: Actually, it goes down … because I’m doing the home program the whole time I’m gone.
T: Oh, I hadn’t even factored that into the equation. That makes sense, though. So, since 10 is considered remission, is that your goal?
E: My goal is 0.
This conversation was eye-opening for me. One of the reasons I was disappointed with this week’s TNF number was because I was under the impression that I shouldn’t leave until I got down to 20 … and since it has taken me five weeks just to move down 22 points, I was worried I’d have to stay several more months. However, it doesn’t sound like that’s the case. Obviously, metastatic breast cancer and Hodgkin Lymphoma are different cancers, and I need to consult Dr. Rubio, Sr about my case specifically … but this gave me hope that I will be able to leave here sometime in March after all.