Thursday, March 3, 2011

#304: A Little Scare

Cancer... the gift that keeps on giving. I went in to the Markey Center yesterday to pick up some paperwork. It was a request to extend my leave of absence from work. I felt a little funny about this. Most of the time I feel pretty good, like maybe I could try to go back for a few hours a week. I liked my job and the people I worked with, and I miss them.

So I'm sitting in the waiting room while Dee, the angel who calls herself my cancer nurse had the doctor sign the paper. I read a magazine. I chatted with the other patients and the ladies behind the desk. The door opened and Dee brought me the signed form. She handed it to me and told me that she would be seeing the play this weekend. I said I was looking forward to seeing her after the show. The next thing I heard was Alex, the triage nurse shouting, "Dee! Mr Johnson fell down." I was surprised to find myself on my back in the middle of the room. Actually, everybody was pretty surprised. They said I went down quite peacefully, like a tree in the forest. I hit one of the couches, knocking it a couple of feet across the floor,but judging from the ache in my shoulders, I hit it with my upper back, not my head. No cuts. No bruises. No harm done that I can tell. Dee made me sit for a long time. She brought me some juice. I wasn't clammy. My color was good. She took my blood pressure. It was 122/56. OK, so that's a problem. Once I had recovered and she was confident I was OK, Dee walked me to my car. I called my family doc and made an appointment for this morning. We'll have a long discussion about this. There are a lot of places I could have gone down where the corners aren't padded and the room isn't full of nurses. I don't want to find them. And I sure don't want to get up out of a chair on stage and find myself in the middle of a surprise intermission.

At this month's Head and Neck cancer support group, we talked about whether or not cancer "goes away." One of us had a conversation with a doctor who said something about "Well, you had cancer..." My friend stopped him and said, "No. The cells may be gone from my body, but cancer will always be a part of my life. I will always have cancer." I wasn't sure I agreed with him. I have used the phrase "I had cancer" a couple of times, and I liked the sound of it. I'd like to think that it has gone away. That I'm strong again. That I can go back to work. That I'm ready to get on my bike and win the Tour de France a couple of times. Heck, I ran three miles yesterday, and pretty close to my personal best at that distance. I'm back, baby.

And then, all of a sudden, without warning, I'm flat on my back on the floor of the cancer center, watching a nurse run across the room to see if I'm dead. I didn't even feel dizzy beforehand. I guess maybe I'm not ready to go back to work after all.

At least not yet. If nothing else, cancer teaches you patience. I know cancer will always be a part of my life. But I also know that I am going to get better. That's the hope that keeps me going. I'm not over it yet, but some day I will be. I can wait.


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