Sunday, June 03, 2007

A little R & R

I recently returned from a wonderful vacation in Italy. It was our tenth anniversary for my wife and I so we decided to treat ourselves to a special trip. We visited Rome, Florence, and Venice as well as many small towns along the way. Here we are on a gondola in Venice. It was a wonderful trip and I saw and learned quite a bit, especially about Italian culture.

I was impressed about how important relaxation is in Italy. They take breaks from 1-3 to have a long lunch and nap. Dinner tends to be later than I am used to and lasts much longer. People seem to be much less in a rush than we are in America. It seemed to me that Italians savor the moment, rather than rushing to get to something accomplished. I thought this was a healthy perspective on life. It certainly reduces the stress level. The only thing that really surprised me was the amount of people who were smoking. I guess they don't have the same warning labels as us or are less concerned about cancer.

I returned to the US and resumed my life, but tried to maintain that Italian sentiment of relaxation. Today I went for a blood test prior to my next 3-month check-up in a few weeks. Since it was a Sunday, the normal blood lab in the clinic was not open. Instead I went to the infusion room on the 10th floor at Dana-Farber. I had not been to this unit before. An infusion room is where people who need to receive chemotherapy go to get their medication. Since some of the medications need to be given slowly over a several hours, people sit there for long stretches of time.

On this particular day, the unit was full of people connected to tubes of medication dripping slowly. Here I was in the middle of these people only needing a routine blood test. I was thinking about how toxic the chemotherapy agents can be. While they may be effective at killing off cancerous cells, they also kill off many other things, leading to other complications.

I am very lucky that I have not had to go through this process at all and that the medication I take is targeted to only attack leukemic cells and nothing else. I felt somewhat guilty about how easy my treatment has been relative to these poor people who were sitting in this building on a Sunday morning. I was able to leave after my blood test while they had to sit and receive their treatments.

Even more evidence why we should live for today!