I rocked that bitch. Ass slaps and David Lee Roth kicks all around! Fifteen months down, seventy more years to go.
Like a teenager who stayed up far too late watching a horror movie, home alone while her parents were away on business, I feel foolish for the past two weeks of worry, the frightful hours I spent listening for intruders and monsters, cowering under the comforter armed with a baseball bat. Now that I’m safe and sound in my room, filled with the comforting warmth of daylight, it’s easy to laugh at myself, at my ability to work myself into a gale-force tizzy. And boy am I good at it. It’s a gift, really.
I love Sloan-Kettering. I love the doctors. I love the nurses. I love the technicians. I even love the cleaning staff. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – that place is just plain magic.
Yet I despise sitting in those waiting rooms. Nothing gets my PTSD going like the sight of those faux vinyl chairs filled with failing bodies. As I waited to get my blood drawn, my eyes were drawn to the Indian woman sitting across from me. I’d guess she was around fifty years old, but it’s so hard to tell with cancer patients. The swelling from chemo coupled with the moon face from steroids tends to obliterate most wrinkles. Her small frame was wrapped in a massive wool coat, several scarves wound around her neck. Her scalp was covered with a Yankees knit cap. She kept her arms wrapped tightly around her waist as though she was trying to bring herself comfort or warmth…or both. Her left hand was tucked inside the folds of her long coat as though she were protecting it from something.
Her face had the shiny, iridescent sheen of chemo. With her eyes shut tight in slumber, she looked anything but peaceful. Her entire body sat out of plumb, as though she was a rigid, unmoving sculpture that some giant hand had haphazardly placed in that chair at a precarious angle. She never moved a muscle other than the slight furrowing of her brow as pain flickered across the taut plains of her hairless forehead.
Fighting a wave of nausea, I fished through my purse for some gum and tried to fill my mind with other thoughts. My eyes landed on a pair of women walking arm and arm in the hallway, working their way towards the waiting area. These women were both a little older, probably in their late sixties or early seventies. One had short, salt and pepper hair and wore thick plastic-framed glasses. Her companion was far more fashionable wearing a long sleeved black tee with a wide scoop neck, hair shaped in a smooth white bob. She reminded me of Helen Mirren on all accounts. For a moment, I thought she must have just returned from vacation as her skin looked sun-kissed beneath the fluorescent lighting.
As the duo entered the room, I realized my initial appraisal was incomplete. The skin that had appeared sun-kissed was a deep, painful red. She absentmindedly tried to brush away the phantom hair from the right side of her face as her partner surveyed the seating arrangement. Confused, she moved her hand to the left side of her face, comforted as she felt the thin wisps of hair brush her fiery shoulders. “Radiation,” I thought to myself as I rustled through my purse, looking for any distraction.
Her friend gently lowered the weakened woman into the seat next to mine, then took her place on the other side of her burnt body. Gently she asked in a lilting Irish accent, “Shall we try again? Can you remember your address?”
Her question was met with wide sad eyes and knitted eyebrows. After several long moments, the woman shook her head in slight, pain minimizing movements of defeat. “I think there might be a four in it,” she mumbled thickly.
Her friend touched her knee, careful to avoid any exposed raw skin and spoke in a comforting tone. “That’s all right, love. I’ll ask you again in a few moments. Just rest a minute.”
Mercifully the technician called my name before I started hyperventilating. I gave my blood, cracked some nervous jokes, accepted the usual friendly analysis of my hair, and made my way to the next waiting area. I pulled out Webster to see if I had any service. I got a little misty honestly. I was so overwhelmed by the supportive emails and tweets from you kids (you guys really are a bunch o’ softies, eh?). Not wanting to weep openly in a room full of people going through some seriously heavy shit, I switched over to Suduko, picking the easy level since I was looking for a distraction, not a challenge. Sadly it wasn’t enough to keep me focused and I unintentionally started listening to the conversation next to me.
A father was expounding to his brother that the last round of chemo hadn’t been as successful as they had hoped, but at least his daughter’s tumor hadn’t increased in size. They were going to try another round of these drugs then re-evaluate in a few more weeks. The brother kept hounding for details, frustrating the father who was starting to loose his patience. Suddenly, his face split into a wide grin as his twenty-something daughter walked back into the room, pulling her hat down over her missing eyebrows. “Let’s don’t forget, we’ve got to check in at the chemo suite before we grab lunch.” He snatched the construction magazine from his brother’s hands and swatted his daughter on the rump. “We best get a move on, Honey.”
You can see how it gets a little emotional up in there, right? Damn, that reminds me I forgot to hit Aloysius up for more anxiety meds. Summabitch.
So anyway, I’m fine. I’m more than fine. I’m downright impressive with my recovery. I’m a force of nature. I’m a champion of justice. I am Elly, hear me roar!
I’m also a little tired.
I smothered Aloysius with hugs and high fives. I danced my little jig for the receptionist. I sprinted through the rain singing my Ben Fold mantra (verb tense changed of course). I came home. I made my phone calls. I fed myself some soup.
Then I passed the FUCK out.
Not dying really takes it out of a girl. Even though I can see how silly it was to get THAT worked up as I sit here safe in sound in the light of day, I was still on high alert for the past two weeks. I’m just plain worn out. So even though I’m ecstatic, and relieved, and jubilant, and twenty other words that mean happy, I can’t help but get all weepy at the silliest thing. Hell, last night I cried watching P.C.U.
Since I’m still not funny and you’ve had three solid days of somber from me, I’ll share my dad’s new favorite joke. Yes, my dad tells this joke. Often. Come to think of it, maybe there’s a reason people have a tendency to purchase presents for my parents from sex shops, eh?
What’s the difference between erotic and kinky? Erotic is when you use a feather. Kinky is when you use the whole chicken.
Oh and P.S.? Thanks. I think you’re nifty, too.