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Sunday, September 1

X-ray visions

So, the thing with cancer is that even when you're done with it, you may not be done with it. It is a sneaky, foxy disease. Like the cell that snuck back in last year just when I thought all was well. Zap! Gotcha.

OK, so we took care of that and all looks quite promising, but because of the sneaky aspect, one must remain vigilant for the next 5 years. That, for some reason is the magic number. 5 years. You get to that point and they send you off with a "y'all take care now, hear?"

But until then, you must be scanned. My sneaky cell popped up 2 years after my surgery and a year after I ended treatment. I was almost relaxed. Zap. But because of the scans, they were able to snag it in its infancy.

So, OK, here we go again. The quarterly march  to the tube. It's not awful except for the anticipation. The uneasiness starts about 2 weeks before the appointment. All scenarios played out in color and full stereo. Everything from "all is well" to "this is bad" to "get your affairs in order". Honestly, by the time the appointment comes I have worked myself into a state of total acceptance for the worst.

This time all was well again. I knew it, I thought. Deep down.  heh

But the interesting thing is the waiting room. Everyone is there for one reason. To have their innards viewed by a dispassionate computer. In a Cancer facility. Some are like me: survivors hoping to stay that way. But I found myself wondering about them this time. Doing my own scanning..of the couples that wait. Nobody comes alone. I could pick out the patient from the two. The patient was quieter, the smiles softer. The partner tended to fuss about. Bringing magazines, trying to be a distraction. I wish I could tell them to just let us be. We are preparing our heads. It will be OK.

Most of the patients are older, but I did see a family come out of the room. The colorful IV bandaid was on the arm of a sweet little blond girl of 5 or so. Her parents were promising ice cream and her brother skipped ahead in anticipation. It broke my heart. Let her be a survivor counting down, I prayed.

I wondered what lurked inside the waiting patients. were there cancers to be detected, cures to be pronounced?  I heard the woman in the cubicle next to me say she lived 6 hours away and I wondered why she came here. Was her case complex enough that a cancer hospital was needed? It was simple for me, I live around the corner from the place there was never a question. But it put me in mind of  people who drive 6 hours for a CT and what that means.

I have had many of these tests now. I know the drill. I know I will scoot my jeans down to my knees and put my hands behind my head. That the table will slide smoothly in and out of the tube while whatever is whirring around in there sends images of inside me to somewhere behind me. I know there will be a dye injection and that it will warm me for a minute while the tube slides in again and then it is over. Just a couple of minutes.

And while I dress and the nurse removes the needle from my mediport, my pictures are already being read by my doctor and in about 20 minutes he will poke his head in the examining room and pronounce me well. Or not.

When I left this time, Russ had gone ahead to replace a magazine he had forgotten to replace in the CT room. When I saw him coming toward me in the hall I raised my hands in a victory salute and then I noticed a man and small child on a bench, waiting, quietly. When he saw my silent salute he turned away, put his head down. They had been in my Doctor's waiting room before me with their wife/mother. A thin, blond waif of a woman in a pink tank. She looked pale to me. As we waited for the elevator, she came out and joined her husband. He took her hand. They did not look at each other, they did not smile, they looked straight ahead, waiting. I told Russ I wanted to take the next car. She has been in my mind.

I guess we are all carrying some small, soft beast inside of us.  Something nobody sees, sometimes not even ourselves. I choose to name mine "Hope".

4 years to go.