For those who have never had to deal with cancer, the Tri-Cities Cancer Center has probably been little more than another building in Kennewick. But for those who have been touched by cancer - either in their own bodies or through a loved one - it is universally recognized as a gem in our community.
I'd never walked through its doors until early December, a few weeks after I was diagnosed with lymphoma. And getting there turned out to be more difficult than I expected.
I got the lowdown on my diagnoses Nov. 12 and immediately received a referral for Dr. Thomas Rado, a renowned physician at Columbia Basin Hematology & Oncology, which is in the cancer center. Because we were nearly upon the Thanksgiving holiday, I wasn't able to get an appointment until Monday, Dec. 1. The evening prior to my appointment, I discovered my number had been called for jury duty in Benton County. No problem, i figured. Cancer should get me off the hook.
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I showed up Monday morning at the county courthouse, along with 83 other prospective jurors. One person was assigned to log us all in, and when I mentioned that I had a doctor's appointment that afternoon, she said I was supposed to have called a phone number to be reassigned but I would have an opportunity to be deferred later in the morning. As the morning progressed, that opportunity never came. I kept waiting for my opening to say, "Hey, I have cancer and need to go see my doctor today!" But before I knew it, I was selected to a jury and was hearing opening arguments.
I called my wife, who was extremely upset - at me, at Benton County, at life. But she called to get me a new appointment at Dr. Rado's office. As it turned out, Dr. Rado was overbooked that day and was hoping someone would have to cancel. So the fates collided to give him some relief and give me the opportunity to sit on a jury (we convicted the accused of forgery, by the way).
I got a new appointment for Friday afternoon, where Dr. Rado and his staff went through my case and laid out what would happen next.
The first thing he pointed out was that I did not have the fairly common "Diffuse Large B-Cell lymphoma" but rather the more rare variant, known as "T-Cell-Rich B-Cell Lymphoma." Great. Rare cancers usually mean you're hosed, I thought. Turns out that's not the case here, as my form of lymphoma actually improves my prognosis. Score one for me.
I was quickly scheduled to begin chemotherapy as early as Dec. 15, and Dr. Rado laid out the drugs I would be receiving. I also needed to be scheduled for a few tests and to have a medi-port installed in my chest, through which the chemo drugs would be administered. The next 10 days were going to be anxious, but I quickly realized I was in good hands with Dr. Rado at the Tri-Cities Cancer Center.