Caregiver Chronicles: Tom's Creative Genius Steps in

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After a long and successful career in broadcast journalism in Houston, North Texas and Oklahoma, Judy Overton joined MD Anderson in 2008 as a senior communications specialist. Her husband, Tom, was treated at MD Anderson for renal cancer. He died in April 2007. Judy's occasional posts will cover aspects of the cancer experience from the caregiver's perspective. Read more posts in this series

Do you recall in the previous Caregivers Chronicle that we were told "neurologic problems might crop up" during or after Tom's IL-2 treatments for renal carcinoma?

Well, they did.

On Dec. 18, day two in his ninth floor hospital room, Tom decided to go for a walk -- down to the first floor, in his hospital gown -- and was escorted back to his room by security.

He insisted that the National Public Radio program, "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me," was talking about his "escape."

He also asked me, "Who's renting this apartment, anyway?"

Later he asked me, "What time does this place close?"

And the most far-fetched statement I recorded that day: "I know why the Israelites took so long to get to the promised land. They had a bunch of urologists chasing them with buckets."

Thankfully, Tom was lucid most of the time.

caregivers2.jpgA rough homecoming
He was surprised to learn he weighed 248 pounds on Dec. 17, the day he moved from ICU to his current room. He'd entered MD Anderson weighing 224 pounds. Tom didn't want to eat much, and his breathing was labored.

Within the next couple of days, Dr. Papadopoulos administered a special treatment to open up Tom's airways so he could breathe better. There was congestion on his lower lung levels, which the doctor said he just needed to cough up.

On Dec. 21, we learned Tom had an infection at the point of entry at the white central venous catheter (CVC) line. It was removed before he went home Dec. 23.

Once he got home, Tom was miserable. Our heating system went out on Christmas Eve, and the next day he told me he thought he would die that night. IL-2 left his skin prickly and extremely dry, so the extreme cold in the house, although unpleasant for everyone, was even worse for Tom. Luckily, the heating repair people agreed to a Christmas morning visit.

Resolving to make it
Within a week, we were back at MD Anderson for Tom to get a CVC line in his chest inserted for his second round of IL-2. Since it was New Year's Eve, we wrote our 2005 goals.

Tom's top three:

  1. Beat cancer
  2. Finish his novel
  3. Earn his master's degree 

Amazingly, he accomplished two of the three within the next six months.

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