I can’t believe how long it has been since I posted last.
Well actually I can because I’ve been stuck, words coming like sludge. Great ideas yet over thinking them. Then there’s the days before I go to MD Anderson for a check up which keys me up — makes me restless and edgy. (Hey come to my house if you want a taste of intensity in September).
This trip was supposed to be a cake walk. I feel good. Folks say I’m looking good. I spent time with my kids and my grandson, and other dear, wonderful Beantown folks. I am in a good place for the first time in two years. And then I wake up Friday morning (late) to go to The Place and I’ve an ache in my sternum. . .yup, chest pain. Well I’m not one to panic. . .I ignore it but it gets worse as the day goes along.
I meet up with a friend from Austin in the cafeteria and meet his lady friend. . .nice chat. He has just spent the week getting tested for lymphoma. He’s already survived one cancer a while back. We talk clear and straight and tell him, I’m in his corner, with him on this new path. Then I go to my appointment with my doc and they drive home. My mind and heart hurt now.
I rub my sternum, look for some antacid, it’s gotta be nothing but gas. But I didn’t eat anything to trigger that. I wait for the routine of nurse, then PA, then doc. A woman comes from the exam room hallway, walks up to the man in a chair facing me and says: “She needs you now. The doc is stopping treatment and calling hospice”. The man is all angles, thin, working man’s cloths like a mechanic. His face registers confusion and he doesn’t move. She says, “Go, she needs YOU.” And he gets up. The woman pulls out her cell phone and she bites her lips closed.
She is fragile and I say, “Take a few deep breaths first.” When she looks up at me, I know how it feels to be in that place. So I get up and go to her with open arms, “I know how hard this is. I know.” And she says: “I’m a nurse and I want to be there for my family but it’s so hard.” She cries a little and I hold her. A stranger but not. “I’m an ER nurse.”
“Oh treat them and street them! Fix what you can and send them along” I answered in a bright way and she laughs a bit, “Yeah. It’s easier.” And I say, “Well right now, you’re not the pro but the family member. So do what you gotta do.” Then I get called in.
My blood work numbers are great. My CSA is down below zero again! My white cells are normal again! And then I tell the PA my chest hurts. I have this dry cough. . .Then I tell the doc. He has a concern face. There’s no funny noises in my heart but he wants me to go to the ER to be fully checked. I whine: I’ll be there ten hours! I wanna go home! He says go. I say OK. (denial is a gift until you open it). On my way there, walking. . .not a bright thing to do. . .I try to call my husband but leave a message. I check in at the triage desk and sit down. Call my sister, I don’t remember what I said other than I have some sort of chest ache and would she call my husband.
Then it’s gurney, gown, sticks and stickers for EKG and stuff. Pulse thing taped to my finger, IV and all sorts of questions. Then wait. Then x-ray. Then wait. Then CT scan, which hurt. Then wait. Then blood draw. Then wait. Then lousy food. Then wait. Then wait. Finally, no blood clots, no muscle damage, no infections. . .inflamed cartilage around my sternum. I was too alone to be scared too much.
I went back to my friend’s house for the night. A beer and chips and hour of “Burn Notice” then sleep. The muscles pumping the way the do. I wish I didn’t know what I know because I know it from walking through it. I know what it’s like to have a family member put on hospice care. I know what it’s like to watch them die, too young. I know how it feels to navigate the new waters of a dreadful illness and get in sync with the way MD Anderson does things. I know the docs and the teams at MD Anderson saved my life, and in the after-treatment care have helped me put my self back together.
I know today, and tomorrow, I am healthy and I can show up for my friend. I know how fragile our bodies are and how resilient they are as well, just like our spirits, our desire, our living.