Science & Medicine

A love letter to Miriam

 by Arnie McConnell

Funny how the most unusual places can become “home” to those who need them. Miriam Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island is such a place for me.

Formerly a Jewish hospital, Miriam has become part of a much larger network. But its intimacy, kindness, and comprehensive dedication to patient care continue to set it apart as a special place. I can park my car at its curbside, walk (sometimes run!) up three flights of stairs, and step into one of the most advanced cancer treatment centers in the world.

About three years ago, my internist, James Yess, mentioned that he might have a key into the cause of my complaints regarding headaches and precipitous drops in energy levels. Due to the fact that my blood was about three times thicker than normal, Dr. Yess referred me to hematologist Fred Schiffman at Miriam.

Dr. Schiffman is legendary at the hospital and within the nearby Brown University community for his commitment to state of the art medicine and to exceptional patient care. He didn’t have to take the time to convince me, over a period of months, to accept treatment. He would have been very busy, with or without me.

But, he did take that time, and I am grateful. I won’t recount the BMB and the bone sample, or the phlebotomies, or the many, many blood tests; I’ll just tell you this: Some fairly definitive tests ordered on my behalf from the Anderson Cancer Center came back recently, showing no evidence of the mutation on at least one major chromosomal site. My red blood products have been in the normal clinical range (about 250,000) for close to two years. My headaches are well in the past.

Dr. Schiffman, from early on, prescribed PegasysArnie with snow shovel for my polycythemia vera, and I have moved from a dosage of 90 micrograms weekly to 60 micrograms every ten days. Having nothing to offer other than anecdotes, I will offer you this: Pegasys has worked for me.

It’s fun to think that I might be “cured,” but, with this sort of condition, cured is a relative concept. For the foreseeable future, I’ll remain under my specialist’s care.

All I know is that I shoveled out a large portion of my driveway after a recent blizzard and that I no longer feel the urge to try, among other things, silkworm cocoons, to enhance my energy.

No longer do I rest my head against the top of the computer as I type.

Walking out of Miriam on Tuesday, February 12, radiant with my good news, I savored especially those many smiles that returned my own, as they so often have. I am also mindful of those for whom the tougher fights continue, every day. They are my people, I think.

How many people love their cancer center? Plenty.

I’m one of them.

Take me back to the Contents

© Arnie McConnell and, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Arnie McConnell and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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