November 13, 2018
Issels Clinic Day 1
The day dawned bright and early for Glen and I. The sky was a brilliant blue as we rolled out of bed. Glen had another bad night to add to the many already too many to count. He was exhausted, and with insomnia so was I. I was amazed that my head was not a migraine, just a “bad” headache. Small comfort but I am thankful. We looked more closely at our surroundings, as we quickly got ready for Armando the taxi driver to pick us up. We were situated on 3 acres with loads of fruit trees that Jon, originally from Switzerland, said we could help ourselves to. Lemon trees, orange trees, apple trees, persimmons, tangerines, – could this be heaven? We didn’t have time for any exploration as we had to rush off to Issels Clinic. Armando was already at the gate.
Slowly we walked up the stairs to Issels. It was located on State Street, which we discovered was the main street of the city and the downtown core. The buildings and signs were very Spanish. No building could be more than five stories high. State Street was divided into Upper State Street and Lower State Street. If you followed State Street to the Lower district you literally hit Stearns Wharf on the ocean. I couldn’t wait to see it! I was hoping beyond hope that Glen could see it with me for the first time.
We met Dr. Issels in the lobby along with Ken and Ada, as well as a few other patients and Doris, the receptionist and by all appearances the administrator of the Clinic. Kinsey, one of the nurses came in and we slowly met others – Roberto, another nurse, Star, also a nurse who commutes from Los Angeles; Dr. Kim who is the medical doctor at Issels; and Dr. Revel Miller the psychologist (although we are unsure if we are slated to talk with him or not – I guess we’ll find out!). We were slated to consult first with Dr. Kim who went through Glen’s medical history with him and I. He was very kind and said he has an open door policy. To my surprise Dr. Kim told us that if we had questions just knock. So different than what we are used to with our “modern” system! He even gave us his phone number and told us that Issels would follow Glen for the rest of his life. That’s going to be a long time to follow Glen doc cause he’s going to live at least another thirty plus years,” was my inner thought but I found myself smiling.
We were told we would consult with Dr. Issels the next day. Dr. Christian Issels is the son of Dr. Josef Issels who has been doing this immunotherapy since 1951. Dr. Christian Issels is carrying on the legacy. Apparently they are now doing “trials” of this in Canada (perhaps in the USA too?). This blows my mind. Why do trials on something that has been effective since 1951? That just seems to be purely crazy because the patients then won’t know if they’re getting the real deal or a placebo. I do not understand the politics involved in that particular brand of crazy.
At first I thought it was a fairly small clinic but soon discovered many rooms down the hallway. Offices and multiple treatment rooms were there. Glen was ushered into the IV room after seeing Dr. Kim. Since he would be there for a few hours and it was already 11:00am I went out to grab a quick bite to eat because only Glen’s lunches were provided, not mine. We figured the Enterprise Car Rental place was about a mile away. Glen pointed the direction to walk down State Street and off I went. It’s hard to admit but after about a mile of fast walking I realized the numbers were not going in the right direction! I stopped at the next bench and pulled out my hat from my backpack. It was hot outside and people were in long sleeve shirts! I noticed I had stopped at a bench with a homeless person sitting there. I pulled out my grapes and asked if she was hungry.
“No, I’m not hungry,” she responded.
“Ok, because if you are you can have my grapes,” I offered.
“Oh I don’t eat grapes,” she said.
“I used to be allergic to grapes too,” I returned. “But I got some treatments and I’m so glad I can eat them now!”
“I’m not allergic to them,” the woman drawled in her African American accent. “I don’t eat them for religious reasons. I’m here as a missionary.”
I looked at her cart probably filled with all her belongings and back to her in complete bafflement. She caught my confusion and went on.
“There’s a guy in the Bible who doesn’t drink wine or eat grapes,” she said. “That’s why I don’t.”
Interesting that she didn’t eat grapes based on a guy in the Bible whose name she didn’t know. I did hope that her missionary work was going well though! I bid her a “God bless you” and carried on.
Finding another woman walking down the street I asked her directions and she looked at me incredulously and with, I’m quite certain, a bit of pity.
“Oh, you’re definitely going the wrong way for that address! It’s at least three to four miles the other way. I would give you a ride but I only have a smart car and I have to pick up my grandson from school,” she said very kindly.
“Oh, that’s ok,” I said with my heart dropping. Three to four miles? I was supposed to be back at the clinic by 1:00pm for a nutrition talk. Oh boy! Just then a bus pulled up and she said, “Ask him!”
I hopped onto the bus and asked the driver who pointed me in the direction of the bus depot to catch the number 6 or 11. Thanking him I hopped off the bus and walked another few blocks to the bus depot. Not being familiar with riding a bus I walked into the station and asked at the counter what to do. The man was very kind, broke my money into the exact change I would need and pointed me out the other door. I walked out still somewhat confused, but saw a few buses. Looking at two gentlemen I asked them and the one smiled and said, “That one there is number 6. It just says number 23 as well because it changes to that. Get on that one.”
“Are you the driver?” I asked.
“Yes Ma’am, I am,” he answered with a twinkle in his eye.
“I have no idea where this is but could you please tell me where to get off because I won’t know when to pull the cord,” I asked.
“You bet!” he laughed. “I’ll just kick you off at the right time.”
Smiling to myself, and kind of enjoying this little adventure, I got on the bus and held up the line while I figured out how to put my money in. I chose a seat near the front to be close to the bus driver. An older gentleman sat across from me and struck up a conversation – you know – just a “light” conversation about American and Canadian politics! That led to why I was there – Glen and cancer treatment. He was very kind and empathetic. His stop came up and he told me to get off in a few blocks and wished Glen and me all the best.
I stood up and walked to the bus driver to make sure he would kick me off at the right time. To my surprise he said, “I couldn’t help but over hear your conversation. Please look up this doctor,” he said handing me a piece of paper that he had hand written “Dr Rebi” on. “He passed away a few years ago but he has made a concoction that heals cancer. They tried arresting him but when the trial came the judge told him to bring 7 people who had been cured from his herbals. He brought 70 and was acquitted. Look him up,” he implored.
Angels. Pure angels. I thanked him as he wished me all the best and walked into the Enterprise Car Rental with a large sigh of relief. Renting the vehicle went off without hitches and I even managed to find my way back to the clinic (although it was on the same street so hopefully I wouldn’t mess that up!).
I walked back into the clinic by 1:05pm and joined the talk on nutrition given by Carly over Skype in the IV room where all the patients were getting an IV. It was interesting and reinforced a lot of what I knew already. It was very nice to be able to ask questions and I look forward to another talk on Thursday with Carly. Nutrition is something I know well because of my forty-year quest for health, however Glen is another case because of the bowel issues. He has so much trouble eating all the good whole and raw food because it just aggravates his bowels. It’s so sad!
After a few more treatments we had to stop and buy groceries, which almost killed Glen. By the end of the day with all the treatments going on Glen is exhausted and his bowels become his own personal hell. I kick myself for my poor navigation skills, although I am reminded that the day was busy and I wanted to be with him as much as possible during his treatments. The question is always how can I best support him? Sometimes it means that I have to overcome my fear of getting lost or turning the wrong way onto a one-way street (and in Santa Barbara there are MANY one way streets) or of ending up on a freeway where I can’t turn around. My phone wifi not working was also an issue.
We finally made it back to the Castilla with more sighs of relief. I busied myself with supper preparations in a tiny kitchen with very small amounts of counter space (but definitely cute and adequate!) while Glen retired to the “royal throne”, moving back and forth often between that and the comfortable loveseat situated in the bedroom. It was dark already for about an hour and the neuropathy caused him no shortage of pain in his feet, legs and hands as well as making him cold. Glen is also not used to being under 200 pounds and at 170 pounds just feels cold much of the time even in the balmy weather out here. The people here are cold and think it’s winter. I guess when you’ve never experienced a real winter this may feel cold but it is 24 degrees out there right now – that’s definitely summer!
We both crashed into bed that evening relatively early praying for a good sleep for both of us.