The new chemo drug seemed to be hard at work, doing its job. It was the side effects that were hard to manage. Rosemary had been, reluctantly, on around-the-clock oxycodone for several days. The pain in her shoulder had been with her for six months, increasing with the passing time. The MRI had showed it was from her cancer.
We had been surprised and relieved when the new chemo drug became available. We had hoped that Rosemary would be able to take it as part of a Phase II clinical trial last winter, but she had been randomly assigned the standard of care drug instead, and we had been very disappointed. Then, less than six months later, when her current chemo drug stopped working, the doctor announced that the new drug we had so hoped for and hadn’t been able to get, had been so effective that they had stopped the clinical trial and made it available to everyone who needed it. We were ecstatic.
But the side effects were difficult. Rosemary’s white blood count plummeted; her temperature rose. On Tuesday evening, Rosemary called the oncologist office and left a message for the doctor on call. He returned her call shortly after, around 8:30. He listened to her symptoms and thought she should go to the Emergency Room and said they might keep her overnight. The Emergency Room!! We had had such horrible experiences in the Emergency Room in the past, I had tried to make Rosemary promise that she would let me die rather than go back there. And now, there was Covid to contend with. If Rosemary became infected, her cancer treatment would stop. With her low white blood count, she was doubly at risk. Please, I begged, from across the room, not the Emergency Room. The on-call doctor, who seemed very sympathetic, offered an alternative. If Rosemary could give herself an injection of a drug she had been taking to boost her white cells and then get two antibiotics and take them that night, she could wait until morning and call her regular oncologist. She had the materials she needed for the injection. But she needed to get the two antibiotics.
I looked at my watch. Our usual pharmacy had closed a half an hour before. The next closest one closed at nine. Twenty minutes. The very kind doctor called in the prescription. Rosemary phoned the pharmacy to make sure the pharmacist received the prescription. I grabbed my shoes, my sweater, and headed for the door. I stopped to put on my mask. Wait!
“Rosemary!” she was on the phone, still talking to the pharmacist who was generously going out of her way to make sure that Rosemary could get the drug that night. She put her hand over the mouthpiece and looked at me questioningly. “I can’t go inside the pharmacy!” We looked at each other in dismay. The clock was ticking. The pharmacy was ten minutes away.
“Murray!” I exclaimed, and she shook her head yes.
I hated to be asking him so soon for another favor. Still, it was that or the ER. I texted. No answer. I tried texting Lee. She responded. “Of course, Murray will help!”
Rosemary called the pharmacist. The drug was ready and would be there when Murray arrived. He was at our door in what seemed like no time. After he rang, I opened the door to take the drugs. Murray pointed questioningly at two bags on the hallway floor.
Cynthia had delivered the last needed bags of potting mix!