My Brother and the U of M Clinical Trial for Soft Tissue Sarcoma

Soft Tissue Sarcoma Cancer

Margie Burgard and John Burgard at Univ of MN Cancer Care infusion room.

I am sitting on the third floor of the Cancer Care Clinic at the University of Minnesota Hospital with my sister Margie and my brother John as we wait for John’s clinical trial drug to arrive. Medical treatment, with the number of lawsuits going on today, requires verification and authentication and review before any procedure can happen; not to mention this morning’s ECHO scan and EKG and multiple vials of bloodwork, in addition to a visit with his oncologist who did not want to directly answer the tough questions. My brother is diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma cancer, which has reached his lungs, and these are his last-chance rounds of chemo.

Doc says the rounds of chemo will continue as long as the results show improvement. When pressed, he says the maximum rounds will probably be about 10.

We try to keep a sense of humor about the situation because what else is there to do? We can count the months and tick off the hours we have left on our fingers but none of it will change a thing. My brother is going to die soon, and we can’t save him. We can’t cure him. We can only try to keep him warm, comfortable, and lend a a bit of laughter to the few hours we will get to see him while trying to be outwardly sensible. His diagnosis for soft tissue sarcoma was last February, and the outlook is about a year.

Right now, the Burgard snores are pretty loud. My brother snores. So does my sister. They say I snore somewhat too, but not nearly as enthusiastically as they do. I’m sure I am much more subdued.  They are sleeping because we are an hour overdue for the infusion to begin, and my brother’s records had not been updated in some places since last September. The staff assigned to us says they “want to do it right,” and all I can hear is they don’t want to be sued. There is some discussion about weight loss.

To get here, we drove in my rented car in the pouring rain before the sun came up in pitch black darkness. Thankfully the hospital has valet parking. The patient restrooms don’t have automatic faucets, no automatic hand dryers and the lights don’t illuminate upon entry to the restroom.  For such a cosmopolitan city, Minneapolis is still in many ways a small town. Small town. Big disease, soft tissue sarcoma.

My sister just woke up because the staff came into the room to give us an update. Margie is wearing her hair wrapped in a scarf to be in “solidarity” with our cancer patient soft tissue sarcoma. She’s kind of a goof. But I tell you this, if I were in the hospital and dying, she is one person I would definitely want in my corner, figuratively and literally.

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