(NOTE FROM HARLEY: This was originally written as an MD Anderson post, but was rejected by the editors. They decided they did not want references to the moon landings on their new “Moon Shots” site. I’ll share it with you even though it is a bit outdated.)
I remember it well. The year was 1969. My wife and I were living in our trailer on the campus of Lincoln Christian College. We had visited my Mom and Dad that day in July. We brought home an old Admiral TV, black and white, of course. Melanie couldn’t understand my enthusiasm. It was late in the evening, after dark. I rushed to get that heavy TV into the house and hooked up in my tiny office. I wanted to watch the first man step onto the moon.
I’m a science buff. I had to see this historic event. I plugged the unit in and raised the rabbit ear antenna. I sort of had a signal from the nearest TV station some 40 miles away. I fiddled with the antenna again. Better. I ran to the kitchen for some aluminum foil. That helped. I sat mesmerized as Neil Armstrong took the first tenuous step off the ladder of the Eagle lunar lander. Then, the snowy picture erupted with Armstrong’s famous statement: That’s one small step for man… one giant leap for mankind.” Yes, it was late. Yes, I had classes the next morning. I didn’t care. This was history in the making. I watched as the flag was planted. I watched as moon rocks were collected and stowed. I watched as Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made their way back into the lander.
Then I went to bed, tired but happy.
In a small way, I feel like Armstrong. I am embarking on a journey where few men and women have gone before. I am stepping carefully into the world of human testing, a clinical drug trial. Like our original moon walkers, I don’t know the end result, but I do know how it is supposed to work. I take the drug. My chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) goes away, either completely or enough for a stem cell transplant, and I am healed. For me, this is the one small step for Harley, and one giant leap for CLL patients.
As I write this, I have just finished a long day of pre-trial testing. The day started at 9:00 AM with signing the protocol documents after which I was handed a white shopping bag filled with an orange plastic bottle and a disposable urinal. Thus started the 24 hour urine collection. This was followed by the mandatory blood draw, supplemented by additional draws because I volunteered for the research option of the program. I’ve never seen so many tubes filled with my own blood. The last time I “donated” that much was when I gave blood at the local blood bank.
We, Melanie and I, had a bit of down time for lunch and exploring the facilities at MD Anderson. We found the Patient and Family Services suite on the second floor where computers, fax machines, and ice water are available. I iced down my collection bottle, it had to be refrigerated or iced at all times.
Next, we visited with Dr. Weirda, the physician in charge of the drug trial. By this time, everything was running late, and we had a 5:00 PM appointment at the Outpatient Radiology Center down the street a ways. We huffed our way there and were only five minutes late. Exhaustion was beginning to set in. We waited some more before a nice redheaded nurse called me in for an “interview”. She asked which I option I preferred for the contrast material. I asked what the options were. Fruit juice or Barium. I had always taken the white chalky Barium. My home hospital gave me no choice. I chose Cranberry juice – about 32 ounces of it.
Then we waited, and waited. It takes about an hour for the contrast to make its way through the system. Finally I was called back and ordered to strip and put on scrubs. After the change, I was infused with fluids, something every cancer patient is very familiar with. At long last, I was ushered into the CT lab and began the final phase of the testing. CTs of my body from groin to head. “Hold … your … breath.” Ten seconds later, “Breathe.” If you’ve had a CT scan, you know what I’m talking about. This was followed by chest X-rays before I was allowed to strip out of the scrubs and slip on my own clothes. We left MD Anderson at 8:00 PM.
Of course there was still the urine collection through the night and delivering it to Fast Track lab this morning. Now the wait begins to see for sure that I am accepted into the trial.
Apollo 11 was a huge success. Apollo 13, not so much. So I am in Houston, and the last words I want to hear or utter are, “Houston, we have a problem.”