I shouldn’t have avoided it for so long.
I shouldn’t have made such a big, damn deal about it.
But I did.
It’s been exactly two years since I was incarcerated on the tenth floor at Karmanos Cancer Institute, where they took a small vial of my brother’s blood, extracted his stem cells and gave them to me.
During my stay there, I hit some of the lowest points I’ve ever witnessed in my life. They did that to me on purpose; they wanted to — as one doctor put it — “dangle me over the abyss, then just as I am about to drop off, yank me back with borrowed bone marrow.”
So you can kind of understand if I didn’t feel too much like taking a stroll down Marrow Lane. Yeah, I’ve been going back to that address for the past two years to get checkups and adjustments to my medication. But that happens in the clinic downstairs. Upstairs is where the magic happened. And the fears remained.
“This is silly,” I told myself. I need to go visit, say hi and see if any of the patients could use a pep talk from someone who went through it and lived to tell the tale.
It wasn’t so hard; the elevator still worked the way most elevators do. Pressing the #10 button, though, seemed impossibly difficult.
Whooshing to the top floor, I stepped out and saw familiar sights; patients walking laps with their IVs like I did, doctors and nurses going from room to room for daily chats, and the dry erase board with patient-to-patient notes.
And then there was the zany nurse who I could never quite get a handle on. Her hair was dyed now and she had no recollection of who I was. Thank goodness, because I think I cursed her under my breath more than once when she’d waken me early and say — when I wouldn’t get out of bed soon enough to suit her — “do you think I’m doing this for my health?”
“$#@%” I would mumble.
But something started to happen. I began realizing that there was no conceivable way they would abduct me and make me a patient again. Furthermore, I realized in a stunning, jaw-dropping moment, that it was exactly that scenario that I was worried about. Huh?
Those are things that happen in weird anti-rooms during strange, mostly forgotten dreams. Those types of twists of fate are fears from nursery school, where I’d be certain I’d never get to go home again. I needed to stop being a baby.
Then there she was, my sweet and caring nurse Melissa. There she was, walking down the hall with arms wide-stretched for a hug and a smile as warm as the one that caressed me back during my darkest days when I sobbed in her arms, barely able to sit up. Melissa, whom I’ve written about and whom I’m eternally grateful for. Not only did she buy me Pizzapapalis back when things were easier during my stay, but she cradled me like a newborn — for indeed I was, with the new blood type and stem cells — when things were rotten.
Now, two years later, we laughed, talked about life (hers, this time too) and passed a few moments together in health and happiness. Nope, nobody needed my kind words today, she said. Everything was going great for the patients. I told her my book A ‘Cute’ Leukemia was due very, very soon and she was one of the featured chapters.
Then, a million pounds lighter than I arrived, I took my leave. But not before another nurse on the floor said, “hey, I read your blog all the time.” Joking that she, me and my mom made the three sole readers, I floated toward the elevator.
I wanted to make my exit before, you know, they changed their minds and re-admitted me.