Today we had a 9:00 am appointment to review Max's MRI with the oncologist as well as have him checked out. Not having been to the oncology clinic for a while the first thing that we noticed that was different was a maintenance woman who wiped down everything (chairs, doorknobs, blood pressure cuffs, etc.) after it was used. I had noticed that the woman who checked us in used a hand sanitizer after doing the paperwork but I didn't think too much of that. After Max got weighed, measured and had his blood drawn, we went to play area and noticed that there were far fewer toys. Max headed right for Kim, who runs the Child Life Clinic, to see what the story of the week was. Kim, among her other duties, dispenses prizes to kids who get the question about the Book of the Week correct. We read a book about a rain forest and Max got the question right but this time the prize was stickers. Max was clearly disappointed but actually handled it pretty gracefully. It seemed odd because Kim knew Max and knew that he always picks a car out of the toy bin (which is mostly McDonald's, Burger King, etc. Happy Meal Toys and pencils) but that wasn't offered.
I thought that maybe August was "Extra Extra Over the Top Germ Free Month" and that Scrooge had taken over the toys but I soon found out what was going on. When we saw Judy, the nurse practitioner that we first met at Lehigh Valley, she asked if we had gotten "the letter." At Lehigh Valley that always meant some kind of cool activity (talent show, meet Santa, meet the Eagles players) but at CHOP it means something is wrong. Anyway, the letter stated that there had been an outbreak of VRE which is some sort of nasty that is not normally harmful but can be a big problem for compromised immune systems. It is easily transmitted by contact but can live off of a person (on a toy perhaps). As a result, there are hand sanitizers all over and they removed the majority of the toys. One other thing that was different, as a result, was that Max was given a coloring book, crayons, and a goody bag that had some additional prizes but was 'sealed' with a sticker. The intent of the bag, I believe but could be mistaken, was to have the kids take home a couple of toys since there wasn't much to play with. As Max figured out, and I'm sure others did as well, the 'seal' was easily broken and the toys were quite playable. I was able to get Max to change to coloring a picture for Mommy pretty easily and we colored while we waited.
The wait really wasn't too long but we spent some of it at the Art table with a young boy who seemed to be there with his grandparents. I'm not sure what was wrong but his temper was very short and he said some pretty mean things to his adult companions. After the first such comment Max looked at me and said, "Wow, that's rude." loud enough for all to hear. Horrified, I leaned over to Max and whispered (praying that he would not repeat this) "Please don't say anything more about him until later, something is wrong, ok?" He astounded me by gently pulling away from me and giving me an exaggerated wink. I was so grateful but also curious as to where this boy was when we marched in two parades over the summer and he could not stop yelling about how this marching was ridiculous and he was calling the police because I was being a bad parent. Max is quite like a Forest's box of chocolates.
Finally, the good news! Max's scans were stable and that, as you've already learned, is good news. Of course we went over where everything was and how it is pretty incredible that his tumors are so close to such important parts of the brain (then again it is difficult to find a part of the brain that is expendable I suppose). The only sort of bad news is that his reflexes are still mostly gone. That is the result of one of the chemo drugs (vincristine) but she said in time his reflexes really should come back.
The plan now is to go back in November and have another MRI, an eye exam and a follow up oncology visit. If all continues to be stable then we will move to a schedule of repeating the visits every 6 months. That'll be a welcome change. He'll continue his monthly hormone shots and Endocrinology is likely to want to see him at different times but those visits aren't nearly as long lasting