Tracie Cone has always been a trailblazer. This award-winning journalist is the former California Newspaper Executive of the Year. She shares a Pulitzer Prize with fellow staff members at the Miami Herald for coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew and has twice been nominated individually. She has focused her writing on helping the underdog and empowering those without a strong voice of their own. Now she takes us on the fight of her life.
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Dr. Nice and Dr. Disheveled

Today I met my temporary new oncologist, Dr. Mollick, an MD and PhD researcher. I really like him even though he has a tough act to follow: Dr. Robert Carlson, who is in Ethiopia sharing his vast knowledge about breast cancer treatment with doctors there. I was sorry to lose him for the next two months, but it’s hard to be selfish when he’s out saving the world.

I have worried for weeks about his replacement, and started worrying even more after meeting my cardiologist last Friday. Stanford is a teaching and research hospital, so all of the doctors are book smart. How that translates into other areas of life is something I now question.

The cardiologist – whom we knick-named him Dr. Disheveled – sat in a chair facing Kim and Michelle engaged in a Sen. Larry Craig “wide stance” that revealed a giant hole in the crotch of his pants, which also were frayed at the cuff from walking on them. He could have used a good nail-scrubbing brush. He really couldn’t even tell me why my blood pressure dropped dangerously and whether it would ever return to normal. Kim said she couldn’t ask questions because all she could do was wonder if he knew he had a gaping hole in his crotch?

Then today I meet Dr. Mollick, the ultimate professional, very smart, and patient with his explanations about my situation. Will my blood pressure return to normal? Nobody really knows for sure because every one reacts differently to chemo. But he did say that many people with high blood pressure have to go off their medicine during chemo because it drops to the normal range. After chemo it rises again to the dangerous levels. He assumes that someone with low-range blood pressure like mine (usually 110/60) is experiencing the same chemo-induced drop, but mine goes dangerously low. He assumes at the end of chemo it will creep back up again. It makes sense to me.

My hospitalization had to be reported to the FDA because I’m on a clinical trial with the test drug Lapatinib. It was almost enough to get me booted from the trial, which I would have hated because it’s designed to prevent metastasis by getting the chemo into my brain. I’ve come too far now to drop out. Instead they are cutting the amount I get by 25 percent, which is still in the therapeutic range. Obviously, Dr. Mollick said, my body cannot metabolize the higher dose.

I hope that 75 percent is enough to kill all of the wayward cancer cells that might be living in the far-flung reaches of my body. I had spent most of the past two weeks as I suffered in pain wishing for a lower dose, but when it came down to it I was disappointed. I have only two more rounds of chemo after this, then surgery (Can you believe we’re nearing the end?) I wanted to go all out, no matter how badly it made me feel.

Because for now and at last it no longer feels like I will be doing this for the rest of my life. There is light at the end of the tunnel, and it looks pretty good from here.

4 Responses to “Dr. Nice and Dr. Disheveled”

  • Judi:

    Hey T, The light at the end of that tunnel is going to get brighter as time goes by. And, by the way, your taste buds are shot because that lemongrass tofu tasted pretty good to me!


  • Abi's BF:

    I know there is a lot of info in this blog….a lot of it sad but I just had to laugh my ass-off at Dr. Disheveled……..I am seeing Mr. Tudball form the Carol Burnett show when I was a kid…..shuffling from room to room with Mrs.Whiggins trailing behind him with her notepad. We will see you tonite with veggie mu shui and extra plum sauce !!!
    XOXO !!!!!!!!!

  • Tracie,

    I’ll put you on my prayer list. I’ll go to work extra hard for you on selling your car too. This info. is very informative, professional, and well written. I’ll be in touch…..


    John Holtkamp
    Senior Account Manager
    eBay Motors Dealer

  • carol:


    I am visualizing you daily, and you are clearly very perfect and strong and well,
    I meditate and send all my energy to this visualization. In my mind I see only a whole, well person and this is the picture I keep and see of you now and into the future .

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