I woke up at about 0400 and gave my dogs a snack before Buzz got his insulin shot. I looked out the window and the black night was creep toward morning gray. I took a deep breath and went back to bed.
I lay there in that state between sleep and wakefulness listening for the coffee machine to kick on – sleeping a bit, turning a bit, and just waiting. Tick-Tock
At about 0800 I got up, poured a cup of coffee and repaired to the parlor to watch TV and the clock hands tick by until about 0920 when it was time to get dressed and get ready to go the Oncology office for my eight month checkup.
With each second I felt a bit more anxious; the muscles in my neck constricting just a bit. Tick-tock.
So it goes on those days – dogs watching, clocks moving, and anxiety rising. All the reasoning in the world does no good — for me at least. Even closing in on four years post treatment, the anxiety associated with a scheduled check is only slightly better than a checkup when I was in the thick of the fight.
By 0900 I am completely strung out on coffee; I’ve been pounding it down as a distraction. I go into the bedroom grab some white shorts and my loudest Hawaiian shirt, because Michelle, the doctor’s receptionist, like those: I get dressed.
Kate drives me to the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center in Newark, Delaware. Compared to many I am incredibly lucky. My cancer center is about 20 minutes from house and only two minutes from a donut joint. If you have to have cancer, you might as well be close to donuts.
When we pull into the parking lot, people are streaming into the cancer center like it is a black Friday sale and their giving away free airline tickets. The place is getting packed.
Even so I can’t help but wanting to vomit. I know there is probably nothing wrong and yet …
We walk through the lobby toward the elevator and the lady at the welcome desk is still handing out hand knitted chemo caps. It’s funny. She has no idea who I am; it’s as if she has never seen me. I on the other hand, have a deep affection for – if not her – the caps anyway. She and they mean/meant a lot to me. Tick-tock; funny how that works.
We make it to the elevator.
Up we go to the third floor, through the frosted double doors, and into the oncology waiting room. It’s oddly empty.
I see Ginger the receptionist, then Stephanie the co-pay lady, and finally a young phlebotomist who had more than six years’ experience. I know because I always ask. She did a pretty good job and was really excited to tell me where the blood goes when it leaves my arm. I could have stopped her, but she was so enthusiastic, it was refreshing.
A tourist bus of sick people must have offloaded a bunch of folks in the three minutes I was getting my blood drawn. When I got back, the room had filled with cancer patients. Elderly patients sitting in wheel chairs, while middle-aged ones leaned against the walls like shy boys at a high school dance. They were everywhere. And they all looked like they were hurting. At first I felt out of place; maybe that’s a good sign – progress of sorts.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw my doc’s medical assistant walk across the waiting room hotfooting it to the phlebotomy section. “There’s something wrong with my blood,” I thought, or said to myself (I really don’t remember). “Aaaah Jesus!”
“Mr. Potter,” the assistant called from a totally different door than I saw her last.
Now I am convinced.
“How have you been,” she asks coyly like I don’t know somethings up.
“Fine,” I said, waiting for the bad news.
“Okay let’s get on scale,” she said.
She gets my weight, checks my blood pressure, exchanges pleasantries, and leaves the room.
My doctor comes in, we chat, he examines me, and turns to his computer and says, “There is no evidence of cancer and your numbers look great. Your platelets are a little low, but over 100,000. No problem. See you in eight months.”
I am thrilled.
Eight months before the next appointment – Tick-tock.