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Last year, my hematologist/oncologist, whom my husband had been referred to in the past for iron infusions, suggested that he join a clinical trial using low-dose CT scans of the chest as part of the Early Lung Cancer Action Program and International Early Lung Cancer Action Program, also known as I-ELCAP. This is research funded by The Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute, or FAMRI. Neither the researching doctor nor the participants are paid. There is no cost to the participant, or as the consent form calls my husband and others, "the subject". Approximately 100,000 subjects participate worldwide, 500 locally.

Last year, my husband had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, so I stayed with him and helped him fill out the preliminary questionnaires. We were in the waiting room, along with about ten other people, not including staff. I tried to whisper as loud as I could, so that he could hear, but so that others wouldn't be bothered. That didn't work. So I raised my voice, which worked for him but was somewhat embarrassing when I got to the questions about whether the subject had any shrapnel, metal pins or rods...or any body piercings. It was very specific in listing all of the possible places one could have piercings, from face to nipples to genitals.

At the time, my husband got stuck on shrapnel, had no idea what it was, so I explained what it was in short, simple sentences. He started muttering about the Air Force wanting him "to correct his height." Still having three more pages to fill out, I re-focussed him on the body piercings. He's OLD OLD school re: men having piercings and he proceeded to loudly testify to the entire waiting room that he didn't need to pierce his nipples or his penis to prove anything, nor to have good sex. I was mildly amused and mortified, but checked off the rest of the answers.

So, I was not exactly looking forward to the yearly follow-up scan last Thursday, but he was. He wrote it on the calendar several times, as well as reminding me he had an appointment with "Christeen", who he remembered liking because she talked loud, "not like you". Fortunately, we did not have to fill out the same forms, just show photo ID and sign HIPAA forms.

There was a bright yellow sign informing people who were hard-of-hearing or deaf, to ask for a translator. My husband rather gleefully said, "That's what I need!" I signed I LOVE YOU, then said," You have me, besides you would have to learn sign language first." They were having some kind of computer related problem, so we had coffee while waiting. Ironically, Neil Young's Old Man was playing, although my husband couldn't hear it. "Christeen" came out, called his name, which only I heard. I waved and she whisked him away.

We got the results two days later in the mail. He asked me what ALL OF IT meant. I read the findings, which included coronary artery calcification and emphysema. I skipped the coronary stuff and asked if he really wanted to know. He said yes. I started with his sister, also a heavy smoker, who sleeps with a CPAP machine. He said he didn't want to sleep with oxygen. Okay. Then I went to WebMD and read loudly the page on emphysema, which hammers home the correlation between smoking and emphysema. His reaction verbally: "So, I should really quit smoking ?" I said, "Unless you want to be carting around an oxygen tank or sleeping with one." His reaction physically: he went outside and smoked.

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