Back to the Chemo Palace 07/17/08:
Okay, I was wrong. I DID need for my wife to be there to take me to OncoMan’s PoisonDrome, known more affectionately as the Chemo Palace. It made her rather angry, but I was insistent on not going, and I have no answer for that except for ones I have thrown out there before, mainly that I am not motivated, not because of a death wish but because it seems sort of like an afterthought.
I DO have one more reason, and I have talked to another survivor or two and they say they know exactly what I mean. I will submit in advance they are women and perhaps entitled to be a bit more squeamish than me, but I will counter-submit that women talk about some of the grossest things I’ve ever heard, I’m serious here, and have also gone through a lot more than me even if they have ‘merely’ ejected an eight pound watermelon with legs from the lower half of their bodies.
So let’s assume that women are tough, folks, and that at least two agree with me on this: I have had so many needles stuck into me over the past three years, and, in particular, in the last six months, that I believe I am becoming puncture-phobic. I think a small number of neurons are jumping around up there in my brain (yes I have one … cut that out … and I mean a brain, not a neuron, so cut that out, too) and screaming bloody murder, realizing that the fight or flee INSTINCT has another option, apparently, when it comes to these sticks, since I am NOT fighting back and I am not fleeing, and so they are yelling back and forth, RUN FOR YOUR LIVES and then other neurons are listening, and turning their attention from SportsCenter and saying What? with cheese dip dribbling down on their neuronic tshirts.
The original Fight or Flee Neurons (now elevated to initial-capital-letters status because of their innate intelligence and ability to lead one through the quagmire of that whole survival of the fitttest concept) are screaming, HE’S NOT GOING TO RUN!! AND HE’S NOT GOING TO FIGHT!!! THE IDIOT IS GOING TO LET THEM STICK HIM WITH NEEDLES…TWICE! AND DRAW BLOOD FROM HIM! HE HAS BECOME AN EVEN BIGGER IMBECILE THAN HE USED TO BE IN THE DAYS WHEN HE STUCK BEER CANS UNDER HIS TIRES TO TRY TO GET TRACTION AFTER GETTING STUCK IN SNOW AND MUD IN THE MEDIAN HE WAS ATTEMPTING TO ILLEGALLY CROSS AFTER REALIZING HE HAD GOTTEN LOST AND SUBSEQUENTLY GETTING CAUGHT BY THE SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT DOING THAT AT TWO IN THE MORNING FAR FROM HOME WITH ONLY A GUITAR AS COLLATERAL FOR THE TOWING OF HIS PURPORTED FOUR-WHEELER OUT OF THE MUCK TO NAME BUT ONE IDIOTIC THING HE HAS DONE BEFORE! RUN FOR OUR LIVES!
And then these other neurons are joining in and pretty soon it looks like Detroit won the World Series in my brain, with a lot of rioting and rampage, and images of automobiles being turned over and burned and images of neuron policemen with riot shields trying to calm things down but to little effect because there are other neurons there with cameras filming the thing thus precluding the brutality option, and pretty soon, my brain is controlling my entire body (imagine that!) and so the FLEE thing is going on pretty much full time in my brain, even if my mind doesn’t yet comprehend it, even if the mind is not yet prepared to override that motivation with common sense, even if FLEE has subtly become AVOIDANCE, which may be considered a FIGHT sort of response if my wife happens to get involved.
And there I am when my wife calls and asks if I am on my way to the Chemo Palace. Talk about a quagmire. For my son :).
I am saying I do not want to talk to her, and I can hear him saying, I’m not saying that to HIM, mom! and pretty soon he is giving me the phone and saying mom is coming home to get you, and I know that you are not supposed to kill the messenger and he knows this too, but he just drops the phone in my lap and heads off somewhere where I am not likely to look for him, and she says loudly into my perfectly good ear (one of the two perfectly good ears I have, mind you, but the only one resting against a phone at the moment), as if she is not aware that the telephone was invented primarly so that we WOULDN’T have to yell at each over many miles in order to successfully communicate, that she is coming to get me and that I am going to the Chemo Palace and I am going to get that chemo after all of the trouble she went through to get this thing done after my cancellations.
And I say, mature man that I am, “Am not.”
And within the blink of an idea, they are saying at the front desk of the PoisonDrome, hello soccerfreaks, how are you today? and I respond grumpily that I am hanging in there and the pretty girl responds with a smile, sometimes that’s the best we can do, right, soccerfreaks? and that melts me pretty much, especially since I am better than just hanging in there and just being a spoiled little boy and she has had a hard day, sweaty (cute) curly (cute) hair, frazzled (cute) smile, weary but friendly (cute) eyes.
Now I am embarrassed, but only moderately so, and still resisting wife’s advances to be my friend and support. I am impressed that she remembers my name (the cute one at the desk, not my wife :)). Must be my new LintHead look, I surmise, since that look doesn’t change much once you get it going, and I look around the room to compare other heads with mine and they all look better. Even the lady who has 10 strands of hair tied into a bun at the back, she looks better, as if she is trying to set a trend with that look. LintHead will never be in fashion, I suspect. I do note that following her chemo, she put on a do-rag, losing all of my respect :), as I thought the 10 strand bun look had possibilities on the walkways of Milan and Paris, if she only had the courage to flaunt it.
We will have to talk, although it’s not possible in the ChemoRoom, because she watches videos on some portable player, with earphones on, while a church volunteer hangs out with her. Churchlady is a secret annoyance to the nurses. They cannot admit it, and will not admit it, but my wife is a nurse and when I asked her later (once I decided to let her be my support and friend and lover again, although, I admit, it might take several years to get some of that loving if she remains as angry as she was earlier) she agreed that, yes, nurses do not like that sort of help.
Churchlady likes to go up and fetch rolling stools for the nurses so that they don’t have to get them themselves. First, let me go on record as saying that whenever I see a sign saying Rolling Stools are for Staff Only, I laugh inside. If no one else understands why, I am sure my semicolon friends will, at least the ones stuck with the same junior high school sort of humor that I have. I just get this image, you see, and I will leave it at that. If you don’t get it, look up the various definitions of the word stool. Okay, I am going to add this: who are they to say that I can’t have rolling stools? And this, and then I am done, I promise: Would the Stones have been as successful all these years if they had decided to call themselves the Rolling Stools? Okay, okay, I’m done. I promise. 🙂
So she is practically hurdling people, Churchlady, that is, to get stools for nurses who are quite adept at getting their own stools, and she is completely destroyed, but only momentarily, when they beat her to the punch and either ignore her or don’t see her and get their own.
It is a small defeat. She fetches pillows for patients that don’t want them, waves down nurses for patients as soon as the IV beepers go off, which has the deletorious effect of making the nurses angry with the person whose IV beeper went off rather than with Churchlady (they apparently do not kill the messenger either). It gets to the point where they are purposely ignoring the beepers, I think. The beepers are going off everywhere and the nurses are apparently playing Free Cell or writing secret love emails to soccerfreaks, and I don’t blame them.
This is their way of suggesting that she cool her jets, I think, that we all cool our jets, even though none of us has done anything, with the exception, of course, of our friend and advocate Churchlady. Churchlady gets so busy helping us that she forgets her charge, the lady she came with, was left in the bathroom and can’t get out without her :). She hurdles a couple of tray stacks in her denim maxi dress to reach the stranded person, and the commotion is merely minor, and only mildy entertaining, compared to the possibilities.
Still, if I were a Christian, I would say, “Bless her.” The sentiment is there. She is trying. And she didn’t mention God or Jesus. Not once. So I give her credit for that, although I suspect she is building up to it, since she used the word ‘church’ 18,406 times (within my listening distance).
And she advised the nurses, any that would come within earshot of her, that she will back again tomorrow, and the first two days next week, so if they need any more help, she will be there for them. I can tell that they are highly excited by this news. I am, at the very moment, wanting my nurse to CAREFULLY stick me with the most important of the two needles of the day, the one that must find a conduit for the poison. And she is talking over her shoulder to Churchlady, and Churchlady thinks they are at a coffee shop or something because she is going on and on, and I am thinking of reminding both of them that I get a minute here now and then, but my nurse is cool, and she gets me right with the butterfly needle, the fix is in and soon I have raw steroid coursing through my veins, and my nurse has beat feet for the safety of the zombie barrier.
My heart is out to Churchlady nonetheless, because HER heart is in the right place, and she mistakenly thinks the nurses ignore us because they are busy, obviously fairly new to this routine, although she has already learned the names of all the nurses, the janitor, and several of the zombies, I mean patients. The friendly sort. If she were playing baseball, I would call her a closer, because I sense a Save coming in somewhere down the road, I really do, but we will deal with that when we get to it. I do not know her record in save situations, but I have a very good batting average in these instances, so I am not particular worried. Besides, if she wins, we both win. I think.
In the meantime, I may have mentioned that they cut back on my steroid and benadryl dosage, one to help me sleep at night, although it may adversely affect the fact that I am not getting really sick from this stuff, and the other to get rid of happy foot. They also reduced the carboplatin dose, although I don’t know why, and, in any event, since I was late getting to the Chemo Palace (whose fault was THAT?) she had the last bag, the carbo, on speed dial. It was flat out dripping, folks. I would have challenged anyone to race with the pace of that bag but everyone was either close to leaving or gone.
It is true: I caused my nurse to have to actually work to the end of her shift. She was at least mildly miffed, said because I’m not sure how well she can hide WILDLY miffed. This could cost me later. So I thanked her profusely and offered to father several of her children even though she is not my type, really and my wife was mildly miffed by that, said because I’m not sure if she could be any more WILDLY miffed than she already was.
No. I didn’t offer to father anyone’s children. Not even my own (I mean new ones …. cut that out!). I was just very kind. If English teachers hadn’t taught me better, I would even venture to say that I was very, VERY kind. (You can’t be more than one VERY, apparently.)
Now, the lady on the other side of me (I took a corner chair, there being an abundance of them: one, to be precise … and because they are the only ones you can really recline in, and because they provide the best view of the outside world and the lake and the big plants growing that look suspiciously like marijuana except that they are not flowering the way MINE would if I were growing marijuana outside of a cancer clinic which I am not officers!), that lady was drooling. My wife pointed this out to me. That is when I knew we were in love again, actually :).
The poor lady had fallen very soundly asleep and was drooling and my wife had taken a recliner across from me now that the room was clearing out due to my lateness, and she was silently teeheeing about the drooling lady, if it is possible to silently teehee, and so I had a look, and I wanted to go over and wipe it off her chin but started thinking about harassment suits and thus left that one alone. She had probably drooled before and would know what to do when she woke up, after all.
And, of course, there is nothing like a good round of chemo bags to get you to wanting to urinate in your pants. Well, not wanting to, exactly, hopefully, I mean, based on current cultural standards and all of that, but, more precisely, NEEDING to. Either that or stand up and shuffle over to the bathroom with the IV pole (and why do we shuffle when we have an IV pole? Is that genetic?), dodging trays and humans and the zombie barrier, and hoping that someone else is not in there, for there is nothing more embarrassing than a completely grown man jumping up and down trying to hold it, even squeezing it, if desperate enough, in front of a lot of other people doing the chemotherapy rag and wondering, suddenly, if they are hallucinating from the meds because of this guy dancing some sort of jig while squeezing his crotch and holding an IV pole like it’s the first day of May.
Yes, I had to go. But I made it to the end because, as I said, they had the carbo on speed dial. My wife pointed it out to me: they usually don’t have those drips going at 600cc’s per hour, or whatever she said. I was impressed with my nurse for understanding my need for speed, despite my corresponding awareness that she just wanted to leave and I would get those drugs as fast I had to to get her out of the Palace by 5:00PM.
So, going to the bathroom AFTER she had removed the apparatus probably felt like a betrayal to her. But I could not help it. I heard her muttering, Et tu, Brute, and do not know what that means, but will definitely look it up.
I washed my hands, and dried them, which is something I do in the Chemo Palace, in case they can listen through the doors, and if they can, this probably drove the sword even deeper. I suspected, as I was leaving and said, take care and have a good evening, that she would scream WHAT EVENING? But she only said, I will see you next week, right?
I am scared. I am very scared.