Six-Month Checkup

April 6, 2010

Reflecting

Reflecting

Last Monday at 8:00 am, I had my six month checkup with my oncologist.

I usually schedule those appointments early in the morning, because I am nervous and like to get them over with as soon as possible.

I often have trouble sleeping the night before.

Most of the time I am busy with my life and give little thought to cancer. But exam days bring back memories of what my family and I went through five years ago, and those memories are still very painful.

I get up at 5:30 am that Monday morning, so I have time to get ready in a leisurely fashion, and to be alone with my thoughts.

I take a shower, eat some yogurt with fruit, and drink a cup of coffee.

I wake Sam up and make him breakfast.

I do everything slowly and deliberately.

I say goodbye to Jeff and Sam and drive to the hospital.

It is a beautiful, warm spring day, fog clouds colliding with rays of sun. I don’t turn on the radio, I want nothing to distract my thoughts.

I enjoy the moment and my own company.

I park the car at the far end of the parking lot, and unwillingly walk to the entrance of the hospital. When I finally enter through the wide doors, the smell of illness and disinfectant make me swoon with nausea.

This always happens.

Chemo has chiseled into my psyche this unthinking antipathy to the very essence of this place.

I cannot explain to my senses that this is a place of healing – my body is reacting with instinctive self protection.

The lab, the chemo room and the doctor’s offices are in close proximity. I enter the lab to have my blood drawn. The new lab technician has not seem my veins before, and it takes her several tries to find the vein that works.

But I am happy. I am done with the poking and the pain, and now I will go wait for my oncologist.

I have a few minutes, so I go to the chemo room to say hello to the nurses. Every time I come, I stop to see them – even after five years they recognize and greet me. They look busy, tired, harried. It’s not even eight in the morning and already the waiting room is full of patients. Older people, middle aged, and some surprisingly young.

I feel a mixture of guilt and relief.

I feel sorry for the teenage boy sitting in the recliner, his head leaned back as though his neck cannot support it, his eyes void. His mother is sitting next to him, holding his hand, reading aloud. I want to go and hug them both.

But, instead, I exit the room.

I hold a magazine on my lap while waiting for my doctor, but I don’t read it. No one does. The waiting room is crowded but very quiet. Everyone is thinking about other things, other places.

The nurse calls my name and I go in. She weighs me, takes my temperature, checks my blood pressure and pulse. Then I am left alone in the small exam room. It is the same room, the same flowery poster on the wall, that I spent countless hours in five yours ago.

I try to meditate, but this place is hard to escape.

My doctor comes in and instantly tells me that all looks well. He knows how frightened and worried his patients are and he tries to bring reassurance instantly. He is a kind and compassionate man, and I notice that his hair has grown grayer and his face has aged. How hard it must be for him to spend so much time here! He asks me how I feel, about my children, about Jeff. He tells me about his two girls. Our children share the same piano teacher and we run into each other at piano recitals.

All this time, he is examining me, looking for anything suspicious. Innocent conversation, but his concentration is serous and deep.

All the while, I look into his eyes.

He tells me that I look healthy, no sign of cancer. He tells me that I won’t need to come in six months, I can come in a year.

A whole year!

We look at each other and shake hands. As I walk out, I am sorry to leave him behind. I want to take my kind doctor, all the sweet nurses and tired patients with me into the sunny spring morning.

But instead, I slowly walk to my car and turn on the radio. I am ready to return to this world.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Jelena April 6, 2010 at 7:11 am

So much to celebrate, my dear dear friend!

Reply

Liliana April 6, 2010 at 7:40 am

Every day is a gift and my dear family and friends make it so!
Love and hugs.

Reply

Nikki April 6, 2010 at 7:31 am

Teta Yia this is beautiful! I think it’s the best one yet!

Reply

Liliana April 6, 2010 at 7:41 am

Thank you, angel! Are you getting ready to take the train home? Love to my little girl.

Reply

Dave Harrison April 6, 2010 at 8:10 am

As you know Janice went through the same breast cancer in 2003 and is now on her once a year exam’s [THANK YOU LORD] and is still doing well. I go with her to her exams and want to hug the doctor after he tells her all is well for another year. I go there with her knowing all is well but when we pull up to the hopital parking lot something inside of me dies till I hear him say your OK to my wife then all is right in the world. I can’r even imagine what you & her went through when they gave you that first bit of news that you had cancer as it must have been devastating. I will be walking with you in the Relay For Life this year again as a member of your team but our family donation’s this year will be in your name cause you do so much to keep our spirits high with your great blogs & kind words.
Thank You for Being You
Dave

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Liliana April 6, 2010 at 9:35 am

Thank you, Dave! My very best wishes and hugs to you and Janice.

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ann mulhern April 6, 2010 at 8:51 am

you are a gift to the world!!

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Liliana April 6, 2010 at 9:36 am

You are my sweet friend and I couldn’t do it without you.
Hugs,
L.

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Joe Holtzman April 7, 2010 at 6:49 am

This was the most poignant piece you’ve done, LJ. Bravo!

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peggy April 7, 2010 at 11:04 am

Ljiljiana, So beautiful…and I’m so happy for the good news! Thanks for the gift of your life.
Peggy

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Liliana April 7, 2010 at 11:21 am

Thank you, Peggy. I hope that all is well with you. Thanks so much for donating to the Relay for Life in my name!
Hugs to you and yours, Liliana

Reply

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