Tuesday, July 12, 2011

And we start the preparations

I just hung up from talking to the pre-op nurse at Swedish.

That's always a bit of fun.

Oh sure, it starts out fine, but as I've said before, after I list my litany of medications and conditions the mood changes. Trust me on this, when the medical community as a whole starts sympathizing with you, you know you're screwed.

Which reminds me, last week I had lunch with one of my dearest friends. We've known each other since we were 11 years old. A few years ago I had her beat on the medical front. She was all healthy and I was broken. Ha!

Now the situations are reversed. About a year ago she found a lump that she thought was breast cancer. Turns out it wasn't. It was a melanoma. And over the next few months we watched as this 'little lump' that was going to be no big deal turned into a very big deal. The melanoma was systemic, and had metastasized. Tumors were showing regularly, and they put her on every med they could without results. Then the clinical trials started.

A few months ago they found two tumors in her brain. Before they could do anything about them, one ruptured. She suffered a pretty major stroke, then then an episode of cerebral salt-wasting syndrome. Even she didn't think she would leave the hospital. But she fought, and here she was sitting across from me at a small cafe in Tukwilla, discussing the joys of the human body. Just this week her oncologist had given her the news that there was not much more they could do for her, and that she and her family should prepare for the inevitable.

That's light lunch conversation, let me tell you.

So I do the only thing I can do for her. I try to make her laugh.

"Annie, I'll bet I know a word that you've come to hate hearing."

"What's that?"

"I'll bet you hate it when you're called an 'inspiration'."

She paused, blinked, and burst out laughing. "Oh my God!! I know!"

"Get that a lot, do you?"

She giggled again. "Oh honey . . . I hear it everyday. It's beginning to wear thin. But you with your swimming and everything, I'll bet you hear it too."

I smiled back. "Oh yeah. I hear it all the time."

"Does it bother you?" she asked.

"Yes. And I'll tel you why. Because when someone says 'Oh, you are such an inspiration!' it translates as 'Oh my God. You are so fucked. And here you are, living, doing things that I would never do, and you're sick and it kind of makes me feel shitty like I'm wasting my life and I'm so exhausted all the time and you're also beginning to make me feel guilty but I can't be mad at you because you're sick and I don't want to hurt your feelings so I'll say you inspire me. But really, it means you're fucked and I'm not.' You never hear anyone say that to someone healthy, or has all their body parts."

She paused, looked me in the eye, and burst out laughing.

"Oh my God! That's exactly what that means!"

I laughed. "I know! Bastards! I know I'm screwed. Don't remind me."

We spent the next couple of hours talking about her challenges, the future, the past, and what the hell it all means.

Unfortunately we didn't come up with any answers.

But it made me realize once again that in the grand scheme of things I have it pretty darned good. I live in an age where my health issues may not be able to be cured, but they can be controlled. I'm damned lucky.

It doesn't take much to get yourself off the pity-pot. Sometimes all you have to do is open your eyes and look at the person sitting across from you.

So bring on the implants! Let's get this show on the road so I can look at it in my rear-view mirror. Like my Dad used to say, a job well begun is half done.

Let's rock.