Strange how Friday started, a Leap Year too. Woke up, brushed my teeth and washed my face - a day just like any other. J. (my son) took care of feeding Cara and attending to her litter box. I took my fish oil and made a cup of coffee. Folgers Singles. I like them; they taste decent to me and they're easy.
I went outside to feed Kitty. Kitty's the stray I feed and water. A tuxedo whose been living just beyond the back fence for as long as we've been here, about 10 years. Seems feeding Kitty has turned into Dreaming's Diner. We've got Kitty, Mr. Big Mouth, Mr. Big Mouth's Clone, The Manx, The Mask, and most recently, Kitty's Suitor, who could be her younger brother. He looks almost identical to Kitty and is, annoyingly, always up in her grill.
I checked out dKos for some comfort and humanity before I left to catch the train. To Baylor. The Sammons Cancer Center to be exact. Fate and I had a date.
Humanity around here these days is a rare commodity. Shit, even WYFP has to work at making the rec list these days. According to jotter, user numbers were at 153,183 on Friday morning. The site's nearly doubled since I opened an account on February 24, 2006. A lot has changed. Lots of new faces; too many old friends, gone. I thought I'd spend a few minutes giggling with my friends in the Mojo Friday thread.
Fun and giggles. Seemed a good way to get the positive energy flowing. But then, I had to go.
Throughout my life, Fate and I have normally been foes. Fate always tends to fuck me and not in any way pleasurable. Fate, however, seems to find pleasure in fucking me proper. Today I thought I'd turn the tables on Fate and adjust my head for whatever Fate had in store for me. Fuck you, Fate. Hit me like you mean it.
I was going to the Sammons Center to get the results of some recent testing. In December, out of the blue I'd begun running a low grade fever. No other symptoms - just a low grade fever, which is between 99.0 and 100.9 degrees, and how having a fever makes you feel. Not really "sick", but not good either. Crappy and annoying sums it up pretty well. I figured it'd go away. Long story short, it didn't. Pan forward till now and after too much blood being drawn, too many x-rays being given, too many scans being run, too many tests being done plus ANOTHER FUCKING BONE MARROW BIOPSY, we're current. I was going to find out what all these fun tests have told my wonderful, gentle, genius of a hematologist/oncologist, Dr.C., who I'm positive looked very similar to Sherman from Peabody's Improbable History, when he was a young boy. You remember . . . from Rocky and Bullwinkle?
(Apologies for shouting. Bone marrow biopsies tend to get me a little emotional.)
J. and I caught the train at about 11:00 a.m. It's a long trip from my house to Baylor and my lab appointment was at 1:00 p.m. The 11:00 train and the subsequent train and bus ride would get us to Baylor at 12:40 p.m. - perfect. The trip started out promising. The weather was sunny and warm. All you needed was a light jacket. I like that. I could hear the train whistle before I saw it coming. I love that sound. It reminds me of staying overnight at my grandmother's house when I was a child. When I hear it from a distance at night, it'll bring tears to my eyes. We boarded the train, right on time. So far, so good.
I like observing people. Engaging them is a whole other story, but watching - I love it. People (myself, included) . . . amazing, frightening, strange, wonderful, beautiful and ugly all at once; an anomaly, forever and constantly changing. We sat down and J. began reading from his Psychology book and I pulled out my copy of "How Can I Forgive You? : The Courage To Forgive, the Freedom Not To" (don't even ask, please). (Hat tip and grateful thanks to CSI Bentonville.)
There was a mildly disheveled man sitting to our right and within a few minutes, a very chatty man decided to sit three rows in front of us (facing our direction) and shout a conversation to/at me. "Okay, Fate . . . here we go." In thunderous tones, this 40+ man shouted to me that the car we were in was colder than it was outside, about his move to the city, his $350 electric bill and his ability to pay this bill because of his ability to get a good job because of his education. "Okay," I thought, "I see where this is headed." Just below the radar of Mr. Verbose's shouting, I was just able to hear the disheveled, obviously homeless, man muttering to himself. With every sentence coming out of Mr. Verbose's mouth, The Homeless Man seemed to get more agitated.
I'm not liking this much. J. quietly asked, "Mom, why are you talking to this guy?" "I don't know. I didn't choose it. It seems to have chosen me."
I went back to my reading. However, Mr. Verbose wasn't finished. Seems he belongs so some sort of "program" where his "group" goes out and speaks to "the less fortunate."
Okay, I'm listening . . . "Blah, blah, blah and I told this unmarried mother of six that she might want to stop having all these babies . . . "
Here we go . . . good, old "God-only-helps-those-who-helps-themselves and you could do better for yourself if you really wanted to" sanctimonious bullshit. And he thought he was gonna "save" me in the process. Mr. Verbose thought I was just ripe for the picking. A vampire, preying on the weak. Except I'm not. Sell someone else, Pal; don't pontificate to me.
"Well," I replied, "I guess that's one way to look at it. You know you said you paid your electric bill because your education lead to your "good" job. How nice for you. You also said that you don't know how people with minimum wage jobs can make it. Even people with two minimum wage jobs. My answer is, "They do the best they can and do what they're able." Have you noticed that homeless folks are beginning to look more and more like you and me? Did you notice that when you paid your $350 electric bill that the electric company didn't ask how you obtained the money to pay them? Did you notice they didn't care if your education landed you a job that ensured that you can afford to pay a bill of that amount? Did you notice that they didn't ask if you deal drugs for the money to pay the bill? Did you notice that they didn't ask if you robbed a bank for the money to pay that bill? Why? Because they don't care. They don't care if you dealt drugs, robbed a bank or even stole it from your neighbor. They don't care if you're educated or uneducated and they don't care if you came upon the money legally or illegally. They just want their money. Period. It doesn't matter how you came across it, they just want the money."
"At the next stop, how about if we change seats?", asked J. "I'm all for that," I said. I glanced over at The Homeless Man, who'd quit muttering and was now spitting on the heating/air conditioning vent.
At the next stop, we moved to another level of the car.
We arrived outside Baylor at 12:40, right on time. The short walk to the cancer center gave me about 7 minutes to spare. Spring's right around the bend, so the landscapers were putting in flowers. The purple and white petunias added to the beauty of the day. The acrid stench of dried manure had the opposite effect. Ugh. The odor wafted into the foyer and finally diminished in the hallway. Thank goodness for the popcorn lady. The smell of freshly popped popcorn filled the air and quickly erased any trace of fertilizer that may have remained.
I checked in, paid my co-pay, took a seat and waited for a vampire of a different ilk to call me back for my labs. These folks are the most amazing people in the world and I love them to bits for their kindness and their gentleness. This time Byron took me and, truth be told, I didn't even feel the stick. I lovingly refer to them as my gentle vampires because all they need me for is my blood. They tell me my veins are the size of a seven year old's. On top of that, my veins tend to roll. That makes me a hard draw and in all my visits down there, not once has any of these beautiful creatures had to stick me more than once. Trust me when I say how grateful I am to each and every one of them.
After I offered up several vials of blood, I went up to see Dr. C. I signed in and waited to be called back. Trish, Dr. C's nurse, came out to get me. J. went back with me, and we did the routine. Weigh in. Their scale lies. I made sure I informed Trish of this. Who the hell needs lying scales? Went back to one of the examination rooms and answered all the usual questions. She took my temperature. Only up slightly. Goodie, goodie. Blood pressure up. Well, I am at a cancer center. I figure it begins to elevate when we walk past the parking lot. She asks if anything new has shown itself . . . and to my dismay and alarm, I began to sob. Fuck.
Things in my personal life are massively less than. Hair's falling out from nerves (not on chemo - yet . . .). Scared. And on and on. Fuck. This gentle angel put her arm around me, handed me some Kleenex and, with my son patting my shoulder, I cried until I had no more tears. They didn't minimize my anxiety and sorrow in any way; they just listened and acknowledged and let me feel bad, scared and sad. My son loves me, but this wonderful caring nurse has no invested interest here. She didn't benefit from this in any material way, which made it mean all the more. She gave me one last hug and excused herself to carry on with her duties. I watched this gentle angel leave the room in grateful awe.
The young intern who'd extracted my bone marrow two weeks before came in. I'll call her Dr. A, although she's technically not a doctor yet. I loved her upon our initial meeting two weeks ago. She has the bedside manner as beautiful and giving as Trish's. PLUS, she retrieved my bone marrow in less than 15 minutes. PLUS she's got a tattoo, which we talked about during the procedure. (She has one tattoo, I have five, and the female lab tech who was collecting the bone tissue and marrow has ten! The "tat talk" helped, believe me.)
She asked how I've been feeling since my visit two weeks ago and began talking to me about the findings in my recent round of testing. The CT scans came back clear. That's great news.
Then, Dr.C. came in and we continued to talk about the recent findings. Long story short, the cancer showed itself in my bone marrow. The good thing is that it's not in all of my bone marrow yet. It's patchy. And, it's still slow growing. Chemo's still not an option yet because with the cancer's slow growth, the chemo would do more harm than good at this point. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. T-Cell Lymphoma to be exact.
Dr. C. asked if I thought a prescription for Prednisone to counter the fever and general not-so-great way I've been feeling would help. "No, thanks. I'm good." "Okay then, we'll see you in six months unless more symptoms start to show themselves. I want to see you before then if that happens." I shook his firm, but gentle hand and thanked him. I hugged Dr. A., thanked her and wished her well. Friday was her last day interning for Dr. C. She plans to become an oncologist. And I told her she couldn't have made a better choice. This young lady is exactly what an oncologist should be, IMHO. An angel.
We left Dr. C's office. J. went to the the fourth floor to The Cvetko Center to gather some info for me about lymphoma support groups in my area. I went back down to the first floor to have one of my gentle vampires draw a few more vials of blood, a last minute request of Dr. C.
J. and I talked about the new state of affairs as we walked to the bus stop. He's coping but hating it all the same. Understandable. I love this young man. If I live my entire life, I'll never be able to thank him enough for all he's done for me. I'd want him in my life in some capacity even if he weren't my son. Good people, he is.
We caught the bus to Union Station and the train was waiting to be boarded. What luck! Stepped into a relatively empty car to find a young mother shouting at the crying baby girl sitting in her lap. The child was about 18 months old. My heart broke for the both of them, but I was still trying to absorb and deal with the new move Fate had chosen for me. So was J. So, we moved up two levels.
As the stops came and went, more and more people got on the train. J. sat reading and thinking. I left him to his thoughts, but asked if he was okay or if he wanted to talk from time to time. A lovely Indian woman sat across the aisle from us, palms facing upward, eyes closed in silent and beautiful meditation. A cute, perky, chatty young lady with palsy sat across from me talking enthusiastically with the woman next to her of economical, yet talented, hair stylists and accounting schools.
I gazed out the window wondering what my future might hold and how many years it would be before I took my last train ride to visit with my gentle vampires, being the cancer is growing as slow as it is. For now.
Empty, unused railroad cars passed slowly before my field of vision. The sign on one read, DO NOT HUMP. Okay, I won't.
Friday night I dreamed of a lover from 30+ years ago. The time in the dream was current. In the dream he looked just as I would imagine he might realistically look today. How curious. Normally when I dream of people from the past, I see them as they looked back when I knew them well, or thought I did. ©