January 12, 2016


First appointment: blood. 9 a.m. on the dot.

It’s typically a challenge for even an expert phlebotomist to find my vein. I had forgotten to drink extra lot of water beforehand. That eases blood drawn — didn’t seem to matter ~  Adrienne was so adept I barely felt the tic of the needle. Done. They don’t use a tiny band aid any more I guess.

I was asked to wait for Dr. Elia’s nurse. Nurses came and went down the corridor lined with chairs and stacks of magazines on side tables. Nurses called each patient from the reception entry room, ushered into the maze of exam rooms beyond the hall. A quiet procession of winter coats and pastel blue scrubs.

The scene: Kansas University Medical Center, Lee’s Summit Cancer Clinic. Sitting in the waiting area for the nurse to fetch me, I thumbed through an “Allure” magazine, curious about a makeup photo spread, its front page caught my eye… Gorgeous women with glitter on their eyes boasting to be ‘makeup for Extroverts’ for its title…

The office had gotten busy quickly with oncology patients. I looked up from my magazine, noticed two families walking close by, congesting the corridor. A tall woman, her coat draped over one arm, obviously flat-chested, her sweater sagging on her happily chatted with the nurses. With fine blonde hair fuzz, she was ushered through the back exam rooms. Her hair was starting to grow out from chemo-induced baldness, judging by her smile and their banter evidently not in the least exacerbated by her lack of hair. Her husband not so jovial but polite, carefully escorting her past the line of chairs where I sat, his hand protectively resting on his wife’s shoulder guiding her steps. She was oblivious to the  flow of patients, purposely en route directly toward her room.

Immediately following the first couple was another group. A woman sported a bright paisley scarf wrapped around her head. The weather outside was so cold she could have worn a knitted cap and nobody’d be the wiser. Evidently she was comfortable with the head scarf to ward off the cold. And it was pretty. On impulse I smiled at her, glancing at me she returned a small smile. Her blue eyes softly sparkled with a hint of makeup she’d dotted on in a woman’s habit to rouse some color. The woman’s two young female companions held onto each of her arms as they gently guided her through the hallway.

They embraced each arm, side by side as she walked slowly with tentative steps to ensure her balance while her daughters supported her slow progress. Her print scarf wrap complimented her gray coat as a lovely accessory. Obviously in a weakened state, I sensed her pain but her soft smile didn’t fade. Her face glowed of family love and support.

A stark contrast, the magazine’s women with glittering faces and perfect coifs, posing. allure-15 And then two women in front of me, whose smiles hid their chemo discomfort. That elderly face showing wisdom and frailty, but also faith. Surrounded by all of their unique discomforts reminded me how well my treatment has gone, how unobtrusively I’d recouped from surgeries and how little we were interested in the magazine’s fancy-shmancy photos.

Families hoped for the best, watching their mom and wife struggle with the smallest chores, her smiles blossoming again in grasping their love. I felt hope. After months of surgeries and my own discomforts I was writing again and happily involved with my new Lab/Pointer pup my daughter gave me for my birthday. I had not felt disparity lately to pray for myself. Upon seeing those women in the midst of their chemo treatment I whispered a prayer. For them and for me. We never stop needing God’s help — I believe in my heart any prayer is heard.

But what would that woman with the paisley scarf do without the caring support of her two daughters, presuming they were her daughters? How would she get through her most difficult days, get out of bed with the onset of chemo nausea? Odds are against longevity when facing breast cancer alone. So for that reason, I thanked God she could depend on her family’s care and everyday support, not only guiding their mom down the hall but at home where it’s needed most. Her aged face showed faith that I felt.

And how does the husband cope from his anxiety whose wife is only beginning to overcome her chemo? Who cares for her while he’s away at work? Where is her family or friends on a bad day? Maybe she has a good Christian neighbor like mine, when Christy brought me a whole roasted chicken and all the fixin’s. I hope those women are blessed with their people too. She seemed to be in steady recovery. There’s always hope and answers.

Next appointment:

Weight: 154. ok.

Blood pressure: 110/72 perfect

Temp: 99 (catching a cold).

No complaints overall.

Tiredness on a scale of 1-10: 5 (Thyroid test scheduled the next day.)  Double-checked all medications data. Changed into the exam top. Wait for my doctor.

5 minutes later: enter Dr. Elia.

Discussed some of my tiredness, no pain, blood numbers are normal. On the exam table, she examined each breast. The right side: a sore spot still at the core biopsy site. Dr. Elia noted it’s just nerve tenderness. I <sigh>. Her hands were gentle but fluid, just like Dr. Jew’s. Mastectomy reconstruction,” looks goodt”, smiling with her sweet European accent, she said “everything is very satisfactory and you look vonderful!”.

I asked about exercise options; Dr. Elia approved walking and a low-impact regimen as long as I didn’t overdo. Smiling, she told me to come back as usual in three months. Relieved, I got dressed. Her approval started to sink in of my ‘vonderful’ bosom, after months of cautious optimism, feeling elated I gave myself a thumbs up!ThUP drOfc

Afterwards as I let the Jeep warm up a bit I jotted down notes about the two women patients in the corridor, smiling they were at least up an’ around like me, donned a pretty scarf, and a touch of blush to rosy up their pale cheeks.

Driving home I got hungry for a bowl of oatmeal and toast with a drizzle of honey and a hot cup of coffee. At least my tummy was normal.