Wednesday, September 29, 2010

D Day Minus 166: (September 24, 2009): Happy to Panicky

“Finally,” followed by a really loud “Yahoo and Woot Woot!” is what I said when you called me around lunch time. My office mate thought I’d won the lottery. This was even better. Much better than winning the Superbowl, that is, if I liked football – and going to Disneyland. You’d just got off the phone with Hobby, the trial coordinator at MD Anderson. Now you had an honest to God schedule. Something so we could plan for the next month.

You confirmed the appointments for our trip that I already had booked. You needed those tests to prove what you and I already knew. You were perfect for the trial. So what if it meant more bloodwork, a PET Scan, and an Echocardiogram. You knew how to get poked with needles, prodded, and blasted with invisibles rays. I knew how to wait and wait for you to get poked, prodded, and blasted.

This was really old news, but I forced you start at the beginning and say everything slow and twice. That didn’t get a woot woot out of me. It wasn’t until the second time you told me that you had dates for the first round, which was the first three weeks in October. That’s when I started carrying on. You laughed and three days of tension between us about getting things ‘nailed downed’ dissolved.

You were scheduled to start the trial on the October 6th, so you’d be flying out on the 5th. You expected to be done with all the tests and results so you could fly back on the 8th. You asked, “Do you think Katie can come with me on this trip?” You knew what my answer was before you asked, “Of Course.” I meant it when I said it. Then reality set in. I wasn’t going to be around if there was some big news. And now I had to wait: wait until you coordinated with Katie to schedule the flight; wait to hear the results of the tests; and wait in general. Maybe I wasn’t as good at waiting as I thought. Or maybe this was a different kind of waiting.

Needless to say, I’d gone from happy to panicky in less than sixty seconds. Waiting with you was easier than waiting without you.

October 14th and 15th were the dates for the second week. October 22nd and 23rd were the dates for the third week. I checked my calendar and blocked off the days so I could juggle work. We decided, I’d be your travel buddy for those weeks.

You thought I was mad or worried about the cost of airfare, car, and hotels. It wasn’t that at all. It was waiting at a distance and not knowing real-time. You caught me in the middle of a mental slap down – “Katie needs to know what this about. Greg can take care of himself. Worrying is not productive. You’re going on the other trips. Stop being so greedy. Life goes on. Greg needs time with other people. And yada yada, blah, blah.”  My slap down didn't work.  I was still worried about waiting. Oh and about giving up some control. Now that is funny, don't you think?  How can you control the uncontrollable?  Anyway, you didn’t have that worry because you were at every appointment, treatment, and test. You knew. You always said this was easier for you than me.  But, I'd say it was a draw - especially when it came to controlling the uncontrolable.

“Are you okay?” You asked.

“Of course.” I said with a high pitch and forced enthusiasm. Maybe House had it right. Everyone lies – especially to themselves.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

D Day Minus 168: (September 22, 2009): Assurance about Insurance

“Mom, my insurance was denied.”  You said panic rising with each word.   I’d parked my Miata so I could deliver Dad’s dinner – Subway.  He was working late again.  You’d finished a full day at Wegmans and had checked the mail.  Rejection in the form of letter from the Insurance Company was your reward.  

Insurance had been an ongoing concern -- every since you filed for divorce.  Getting your own coverage was your mantra.  That’s all you wanted. You chanted it whenever insurance (or the loss of insurance) came up.  My mantra was COBRA. I chanted it whenever insurance came up, but you didn’t want to hear that.  

“That doesn’t make sense.” I said focused on my breath –in for four and out for four – until calm enveloped me.  It was part of my new distraction strategy. I’d been working really hard to convince myself, freaking out and adding to a wave of hysteria, only made things worse.  So far, I’d been doing a good job except yesterday. I spiraled down because we still didn’t have definitive dates for anything beyond next week for your treatment.  But, in my defense I bounced back pretty fast.  I only had to tell myself it would be okay a hundred times and remember to breathe.  It worked!  And I know you appreciated me keeping my mouth shut about travel arrangements. It’s not like your life depended on it.   I know you thought it, but didn’t say anything.  You didn't want a visit from Rainman.    

“The letter says they won’t cover my cancer because it's a pre-existing condition.”  You responded to my new found calmness.  I heard you breathe in and out evenly.  I don’t know whether you meant to do it, but you did. 

“I’m sure it’s only an administrative glitch.  I’d be willing to bet your certificate of insurance is not on file.  We have copies.  You can fax the letter at work tomorrow.  Besides, you’re still covered until the divorce is final.  If that falls through, there is always COBRA.  Dad and I will help you out. I promise, this will be okay.  There isn’t some diabolical plot against you or us.  It’s just paperwork.”   I said thankful we’d been through the insurance drill after you separated. We’d done our homework and knew what to expect. 

“You’re probably right.” You said.  

“Probably?” I teased and added. “It’s all going to be okay. I promise.”  

We talked about dinner plans and our days.  Your day was awesome.  My day was so so. You weren't hungry because you ate lunch late.  I was on my own and could eat whenever and whatever I wanted, which made me happy. That meant I could do P90X when I got home. Today was Yoga X and I liked yoga. You and Katie planned to get something to eat later. 

I let you go so I could deliver Dad's dinner.  On my way to his office, I skipped, but made sure nobody saw me. I made you feel better about the insurance. And that made me feel better.  It was all going to be okay.  At least for now.  And that was good enough. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

D Day Minus 170 (September 20, 2009): Distractions

“You know what you can do with your Dreya rolls.” I yelled at Tony Horton, sweat dripping down my face, seriously considering whether or not to flip him off.  I was doing Cardio X, Day 2 of the P90X Lean Challenge. Yesterday, I did Core Synergistics.  And the whole thing had kicked my butt – especially the prison cell pushups, banana and superman, and those damn Dreya Rolls. I was relieved today’s workout was only forty-three minutes and decided to get it over with while Dad finished mowing.  I was pissed when Tony resurrected the Dreya Roll in Cardio X. I thought I was through with them for at least a week, but they were back again like acid reflux-- at the tail end Cardio X.   Just so you know, a Dreya Roll is when you roll on your back and stand up as many times as you can for a minute.  I got stuck a couple times and just laid flat (more like collapsed) on my back.

There is a point to my P90X tale - DISTRACTION.  After I dropped you off in Sterling on Friday – just after we got back from Houston.  I had four and half hours to fill before I got to Bassett.  I knew all my worrying and obsessing about you, cancer, the trial, and travel arrangements only made things worse.  Distraction is the word that kept on popping in my mind – like a little invader. It was with me when I:
  • drove on I-66, to I-81, and Route 220
  • listened to audiobooks
  • bought and guzzled Diet Mountain Dews
  • phoned you, Dad, Morgan, and Aunt Janiene.  
Distraction was even there, when I picked up lottery tickets for Dad.  It wouldn't go away.  I didn't really know what it meant or what to do with it until I drove through Roanoke and waved to Morgan’s exit. That is when P90X and Morgan's journey with it popped in my head.   P90x would be the perfect distraction.  It wasn’t familiar. It had a lot of variety – Kempo, Weights, Yoga, Core, and Plyo. (Morgan gave me the low down, but I already knew it because I'd watched the infomercial at least ten times.) I had a built in support system with Morgan. Plus I already had it. I bought it last Summer to do with Morgan, but didn't because mine got lost in the mail.  Then we found out your cancer was back so I didn't feel like it.  I had to focus on you and cancer.  Now things were different.  I needed a distraction.  Who knows, I might even find my elusive killer calves or maybe even washboard abs like Gwen Stefani, when my ninety days were up on December 20th.

The phone rang just when the cool down started.  I battled whether to finish my workout or stop the incessant ringing. I compromised and checked the phone and picked it up.  It was you.

“What do you want?” I barked but didn’t mean to. I was trying to stop the DVD and hit fast forward instead. 

“And how are you today?” You said, well actually you chastised. I apologized profusely and thought about asking you about recording I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant.  Just as a distraction.  But didn’t.  I could tell you had news to share. 

You told me Julie and Wegmans would be flexible. They would do anything they could to help. They just want you to be okay. You were doing a lot of training and prep for the store and some of the training could be one-on-one so you didn’t fall behind.  You didn’t have any new info on the trial schedule so I could make reservations, but you would check on Monday.  You and Katie were just going to hang out today.  Katie would like to go with you to Houston the first week in October.  You were excited to come to Bassett next weekend with Katie to see Brian Regan at the Roanoke Civic Center.  You were excited about the trial, grateful to Wegmans for their support, and happy to share time and new experiences with Katie. 

I listened to you and drank about 32 ounces of water. I smiled as I toweled off the sweat dripping down my body.  Not because I was sweating, but because your news was a nice distraction and ironic - since P90X was my distraction. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

D Day Minus 171 (September 19, 2009): Say No to I Didn’t Know ...

“You’re crazy.  I’m not going to record, I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant, so you can watch it with Katie. I won’t do it.” You said it with conviction, even after I cajoled you for nearly five minutes.  I’d just watched a parody of the show on The Soup with Joel McHale. I was buried in pillows and blankets in bed at Bassett waiting for Dad to tell me breakfast was ready.  I texted you a few minutes earlier just to check in.  You were at work, so I didn't call you direct.  I was surprised at how fast you called back.  I DID NOT call to talk about the show. Really! I had no idea the clip was going to be so funny.  It just worked out the way - a silly bonus.  

“But her poo had a face.” I said it twice.  You didn't understand me the first time because I was laughing so hard.  It was my naughty laugh -- guttural, deep, and totally inappropriate.  And so much fun.  

“I don’t care.” You said, trying not to catch my infectious laugh.  I knew you smiled even if you didn't laugh.  You liked it when I laughed – especially the naughty laugh. It meant everything was going to be all right.

 “Come on.  It would be so much fun to watch it with Katie.  You can watch it with us.”  I said as Dad darkened the bedroom doorway.  He gave me the look, the one where he's thinking, "Nance, grow up or Nance, give the kid a break." Dad walked out the door and mumbled something about breakfast, so I let you off the hook.  But, I sent myself a text message to record I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant -- even if you wouldn't.  

Sunday, September 19, 2010

D Day Minus 172 (September 18, 2009): Part 2: Just a Little Faith

We were ninety minutes into a three hour flight back to Washington National. I tried to bridge the gap between hope, knowledge, and faith about your clinical trial by reading Biotechnology Demystified on my Kindle. You stared off into the pastels of the expansive sky through the portal window while you sipped a glass of orange juice and listened to classic eighties on your iPod.

That was your second glass of orange juice. You wanted to get your fill of orange juice, because you couldn’t have it once the trial started. Researchers were concerned the orange juice would interfere with the drug. With the first glass, I teased you about "craving what you can’t have and the more you can’t or aren't supposed to have something, the more you want it." Then, we planned for the fight aftermath: pray we’d get a quiet driver to the Marriot where my Miata was parked and drop you off in Sterling.  I'd head straight to Bassett to spend the weekend with Dad. You were going to see Katie, stop by Wegmans to talk to Julie, and pick up a few groceries -- namely orange juice. Nothing spectacular. Still, we were both excited for the weekend.

The guy in the row ahead of us was a really loud talker and just plain annoying.  We took turns rolling our eyes (and smirking) at the self-proclaimed muscle man's antics. He was doing some major name dropping and bragging.  He was best at everything - just ask him.  Oh and he'd been everywhere and seen everything.  He was trying to get lucky with hottie sitting next to him. I hoped she was smarter than that, but decided to mind my own business.  So, I stuffed my headphones in my ears and cranked up some binaural beat tracks really loud. Like I told you, the binaural beats helped me relax and concentrate. And blocked out loud talker.

Anyway, I was trying to understand biotechnology and the clinical trial so I could play my part and help you believe the trial would work. I was beginning to think what you believed about the treatment was just as important as the treatment itself.

Remember last May and the books on emotions and beliefs I made your read: The Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton, PhD. and Molecules of Emotion by Candace Pert, PhD. Both books were about the role that beliefs and emotions play in making changes at the cellular level. The books scratched the surface in the field of epigenetics. I told you, but I don’t know if it ever stuck in your brain. Epigenetics is the study of changes that are made above the genes, not to the genes. I know it’s mind boggling, but researchers say your beliefs can change the behavior of the genes (like in cancer) but not necessarily the genes themselves.

I pondered asking Dr. F about epigenetics and the trial. I decided I would if I didn't think I'd get laughed at or ignored at your next appointment. When I’d asked questions about mind-body and other options before, I ended up feeling stupid or that I let the Internet get the best of me.

You smiled and bobbed your head to some song on your iPod, while I thought about what you had believed about your past treatments. You believed the Interferon was working and it did (at least while you were on it). Then you had a hunch that the cancer was back the month after you went off. And you were right. After that, it was DTIC chemo and the doctors saying it was only marginally effective. We believed the doctors (and the statistics) and it didn’t work just like they predicted. We believed you would be fine with the surgery in February and enlisted the help of others (prayers, thoughts and intentions) who believed in zebras. And you were.

Last month, I was numb about your biochemo option.  I didn't have much faith in that.  I knew too much about the statistics, past treatments, and the doctor’s demeanor about the treatment. I didn't ask you what you believed during the treatment, but sensed you didn't think it was working. This time, I felt better because  the trial was targeted toward the BRAF gene and the treatment wasn't shooting in the dark. I knew you believed that it would work.  I just needed to catch up with you.

I closed my eyes and pretended to sleep until we got ready for landing. I kept building upon all the positive thoughts about the BRAF inhibitors and the success with the trials so I could believe in the trial, thought by thought. By the time, we landed at National, I did. Because, you did.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

D Day Minus 172 (September 18, 2009): Part 1: The Vortex

“We have to show Dad this next time he comes to Houston.” You said the third time we double-backed through the echo chamber vortex at Bush Intercontinental Airport. We noticed it last week and thought it was cool, but you were so hungry we didn’t linger like we did today. The vortex was this dome-like structure intersecting terminals marked by a big circle imprinted on the floor. It was so awesome. Today, you didn't notice the vortex until I said, “GREG.” And it echoed, “GReG…..GReg…Greg…greg.” Then I said “NANCY IS GREAT.” And it echoed “Nancy is great” seven or eight times. You said, “BEAM ME UP.” And it echoed “Beam me up.”

When your “beam me up” was almost through echoing, you nearly tripped over a little curly red head toddler (who reminded me of you at two). Curly red head Tot’s dad picked him up and smiled at you. Actually, it was the shirt you were wearing. Dad bought it last April while you recuperated from your surgery. It was the one with the frog choking a stork with the caption –“Never give up.”

You and Tot’s dad talked and laughed about the shirt. I wanted you to kind of hurry because I was overdue for some contraband. I really needed a fix since I had to dump all of mine to get through security and it wasn't even six in the morning.

I gave you some space.  And took a little trip of my own.  I went back in time -- complete with my zebra roll-around carryon and 2009 electronic gadgets-- right through the echo chamber vortex at Bush Intercontental. I landed in 1991, when you and Morgan just got your walkie talkies and liked to spy on Dad and me. That was when you were still best friends and didn't need to impress anyone.  It was way before cell phones, peer pressure, the Internet, and trying to fit in.

In the vortex, 1991 was magical.  When it was 1991, it was a blur.  I was busy surviving and making a name for myself and trying to live up to my version of everyone's expectations.  I wasn't present in the moment, like I am now.  I owe that to you, Dad, and Morgan.  It's funny how you have to nearly lose something and be willing to let it go, to realize what you have.   I've told you that a million times -- since I realized it.

But you know what, even though I wasn't in the present in 1991, you and Morgan gave me a present.  Your spy notes.  I found them cleaning the basement.  Most of the notes went something like, "Mom looks tired.  Mom is exercising. Dad is watching television. Mom is studying.  Dad is fixing dinner. Mom is kissing Dad.  Mom is going to the store.  Mom has a headache. Dad is smoking."  Each entry had the date and time and stuck to the facts.   Your notes made me laugh.  It's funny to see things from you and your sister's perseptive.  At least you had Morgan and the two of you had a common enemy -- Dad and me.

You probably thought I was smiling at you and your story about the shirt.  But I wasn't.  It was memories of you and your partner in crime, Morgan, through grade school.  They echoed through my mind -- just as vivid as if I would have said them out loud.  Right there in the vortex.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

D Day Minus 173 (September 17, 2009): Part 3: Spread the Word

We were still at MD Anderson. It was right after your appointment with Dr. F. We’d just gotten off the B Elevators on Level Three in the Main Building. You were a little annoyed because I Rainmanned the Trial Coordinator, Hobby, about the schedule so I could make travel arrangements. Hobby seemed confused about whether you were staying in Houston or traveling back and forth from Virginia. I kept saying that we were not going to stay in Houston. Even after a few rounds of saying and repeating the plan to Hobby, I still had that feeling that I wasn’t being heard. But, I just let that one go. I had other things to worry about like Dad’s inquisition about other trials and the direction we were going and why wasn't surgery an option. I knew it was coming. He’d tried to call me (along with Morgan) while we were with the doctor. I'd chewed my Dentyne so hard, thinking about all the loose ends, my jaw muscles hurt.  I put my Dentyne in an old wrapper, because I couldn't take it anymore. 

“Are you mad?” I asked forcing myself to breathe slower and tossing my Dentyne in the trash.

“They are still figuring out the trial, Mom. You need calm down. You aren’t listening and you are repeating yourself when you are talking to Hobby. I’m not mad or trying to be mean. There is nothing we can do right now, so there’s no point in getting worked up.” You said with dead calmness. “You need to patient.”

“I just want you in the trial as soon as possible, because I had a good feeling about the drug.” I said, knowing I had the patience of a two year old. I was excited because there was some hope on the horizon. You were a good candidate, insurance shouldn’t be a problem, it was only a pill – twice a day, you could still work, and other participant’s tumors had shrunk on the GSK drug. To top that off, the PLX4032, a competing BRAF inhibitor, had promising results as well.  In fact PLX4032, was almost to Phase 2 Trials. I just wanted to get the party started.

“I know. So do I. And I do appreciate all you do.” You said checking the signal strength on your phone. You wanted to call Katie because she’d been texting you while you were talking to the doctor. I knew the signal wasn’t very good until we got to the Skybridge. It never was.

“I hate you.” I said pretending to slap your arm. You raised your eyebrows and said, “ Behave.” I said, ‘Whatever.” And didn’t give you the bird (but nearly did – until I thought I saw a doctor we knew). You just kept walking like a man with a mission. “Hey,” I said, mostly so you’d slow down. I had an epiphany to share and not much time to share it. We were almost to the Skybridge.

“Anyway, at least you can see Brian Regan in Roanoke at the Civic Center, on the 27th. You already had that day off from Wegmans. I’ll give you my ticket so you can take Katie. It will be fun. I want you to have fun. Besides I think it’s too late to get another ticket. And I don’t want to sit away from everyone. You and your sister can go and have fun.  I don't care if Dad goes without me either.  I'll be okay with whatever.” I yammered about Brian Regan and the routine about dogs barking and we laughed until we hit the Skybridge.

The onslaught of patients and doctors was thinning on the Skybridge as the day ended. We separated like we were on autopilot so our conversations could be somewhat private. You called Katie. I called Dad. He put me through the inquisition until he heard a break in my amour. After that he calmed down. Then I called Morgan. She was excited about the trial and her new haircut, the one with the short bob like Kate Walsh, on Private Practice. She’d been showing us pictures for over a week and she finally got it cut. She really was more excited about the trial. I promise. Her hair filled the gap in conversation so it wasn’t always about cancer. Next I called Aunt Janiene who drove me crazy. She kept asking if you were going to be on an IV. I only told "no" three times.  "You were taking a pill twice a day." You said Katie had a hard time grasping it all sometimes, too. I laughed because I realized I did the same thing earlier to Hobby, the Trial Coordinator. You know, it was the 'not knowing' or 'being in control' that was rearing its ugly head. Maybe there’s a little Rainman in all of us.

I called Aunt Sue and Uncle Paul while you called your Wegmans posse. Each time you mentioned them, you smiled because they were so supportive. They’d been texting you throughout the day, wishing you luck and sending you good thoughts.

After we spread the good news on the Skybridge, we were ready to eat and celebrate.  We decided to go with a big dinner at the The Oaks Restaurant at the Rotary House. We laughed about how much food we ate the last time we were here with Aunt Janiene -- in April. We hoped they had the same lemon cake again. You and I were filled with so many possibilites for the future -- all simple and easy as long as the trial worked. Before we sat down, I said, “I love you Turkeyman.” And you smiled.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

D Day Minus 173 (September 17, 2009): Part 2: Trials

“Sorry for the making you wait so long.” Dr. F said as he closed the door, reviewing your chart. “But this is typical in Phase I.” Young, cute, baby-faced were the adjectives the popped in my head as soon as I saw him.  How long had he been out of med school? And did he know what he was doing?  What were we in for?  Those were the questions that popped in my head.

Dr. F put down your chart and washed his hands. He reassured us with, “But when I’m with you, you get my undivided attention. Sometimes other patients take longer.”  We responded with fake smiles and nervous laughs.

Dr. F made eye contact when he sat down. His puppy dog eyes reminded me of a little of Morgan’s. I even thought they were brown like hers. Then he said, "I'm not affiliated with the pharmaceutical company. I don’t have any stock in the company. My goal is finding cures for cancer and helping patients where standards of care have not worked to find a targeted therapy that will work.”

You and I nodded like bobbleheads and smiled - half fake/half real.

“Do you know anything about clinical trials?” Dr. F asked forcing eye contact again.

“I’m basically a guinea pig for science.” You said without batting an eye.

“No, you aren’t going to be a guinea pig.” Dr. F reassured. “You will be evaluated closely and taken off the drug if it isn't working. You will never be given anything below the standards of care.” I glanced at you, trying to find an opening for my question on trials in general.  But got preempted when you asked the question first.  Next, we leafed through a brochure on clinical trials, while Dr. F explained the four phases in clinical trials:
  • Phase I is where a new drug or treatment is tested in a small group of people for the first time to evaluate its safety, determine a safe dosage range, and identify side effects.  
  • Phase II is where the drug or treatment is given to a larger group of people to see if it is effective and to further evaluate its safety.
  • Phase III is where the drug or treatment is given to large groups of people to confirm its effectiveness, monitor side effects, compare it to commonly used treatments, and collect information that will allow the drug or treatment to be used safely. 
  • Phase IV is when studies are done after the drug or treatment has been marketed to gather information on the drug's effect in various populations and any side effects associated with long-term use
“This is a Phase I trial that is just starting up, so we don’t have the exact protocol down yet. We will be figuring out the most effective dosage. You are a good candidate for the drug because you have a deficient BRAF gene. The drug is from Glaxo Smith Kline. You will have to take a pill twice a day. You will probably have to fast before you take the pill. You will need to be at MD Anderson for two days a week for the first round. A round is three weeks. After that you will get a PET scan, paid for by Glaxo Smith Kline, to see if the drug is shrinking the tumor. You will probably need to have blood draws every hour for 8 to 12 hours on day one, and several EKGs.”

Dr. F drew a funky picture of genes, cells, and cancer to show how researchers hoped the drug would inhibit, or stop, the cancer from growing. You handed me Dr. F’s artwork. And I quickly sandwich it between my printouts from the National Institutes of Health on Clinical trials and our list of questions.

“When do we start?” You asked, hope surging with the question.

"When was your last day of chemo?" Dr. F asked, paused, then added, "There’s a 28 day washout period."

 "August 28th." You said, eyes up and to the left, retrieving the date from memory. 

"So, when can he start?" I asked. My brain hurt to much to do the mental math.  I wanted to be spoon fed for once.

"Not until the week after next. I'll have you work with the scheduler to get started." Dr. F said, making eye contact again. "Any questions?"

"Nope," is what you said.  "Only a million," is what I thought. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

D Day Minus 173 (September 17, 2009): (Part 1) What the Eff?

“What the eff?” I whispered under my breath to you after I was bamboozled. You shook your head, but managed to keep your eyes glued to the bamboozler, and smirked. It happened:
  • right in broad daylight,
  • right in the middle of the Phase I Clinical Trial Waiting room,
  • right during a commercial by an ambulance chasing lawyer for a lawsuit on a drug gone wrong, and 
  • right at MD Anderson - the world class cancer center.
You pretended to be in deep concentration filling out some forms, so you wouldn’t be bothered. I was a sitting duck, a caged animal, with no place to hide. Some guy, handed me two pens, waited for eye contact, then handed me a card saying he was deaf and needed donations to survive.  I couldn't believe what just happened, so I smiled like an idiot and did what I always did– went down the path of least resistance – and forked over five bucks and some change.

“At least we have souvenir pens?” You said kind of louder than I wanted you to.  So I nudged you to be quiet.

“Mom, he said he is deaf. So he can’t hear and if he isn’t, then it doesn’t matter.” Then we both started to laugh at the irony of it all. Some 'deaf' guy pedding for donations to survive off the cancer patients. The cancer patients who didn’t have any other options to survive themselves. Or else they wouldn't be held captive in the waiting room, where they could be bamboozled.   The more we thought about it, the funnier it got.  So we played a few rounds of 'what’s worse roulette': being deaf or having cancer; being partially deaf and having a good cancer with options; being deaf and having cancer.  I teased, "This all sucks, doesn't it?" You nodded mirroring my naughty smile.  Then we both said, "You've got to have a sense of humor."

The grand arrival of the Jolly Trolley interrupted the roulette lightning round. But it was okay. We had a good laugh.  Now I had something different to tease you about.  The infamous and legendary Jolly Trolley.  You told me tales of its existance, but I thought it was only a ghost.  In all the times, I'd been to MD Anderson, this was the first time it materialized.  You were right, it did have complimentary coffee, tea, and mints, and a happy volunteer playing the role of conductor.  It didn't  have what I really wanted - gum and diet contraband.  I told you that and meant it.  And that made you smile.  All of this effing business made us forget (or tolerate) that your appointment with destiny (and Dr. F.) was already two hours late.  I got distracted watching the drama of the waiting (and I meant that on so many levels) room unfold and forgot to tell you -- "Life is stranger than fiction. You can't make this crap up."

Thursday, September 2, 2010

D Day Minus 174 (September 16, 2009): Right or Wrong?

Both of us prayed the shuttle driver would get us to National Airport fast. Granted it was only an eight minute drive from the Marriot in Crystal City, where l'd left my little silver hand-me down Miata in long-term parking. But it seemed a lot longer. Shuttle Driver wouldn’t shut up. First, it was his views on the Middle East and the United States’ role. Then he went off the deep end on his religious views. So within five minutes, Radical Shuttle Driver, hit two of three topics you should never talk about in mixed company. I swear, if he would’ve mentioned sex, I was going to pull a stunt move and roll out of the shuttle. Right at the intersection of Jefferson Davis Highway and 23rd Street. 

You know I've done it before.  I was with Junior High, camping with my best friend Lori’s family, at Dinosaur Land in Utah. I jumped out of the tour cart when it was accelerating down a hill. Just like Charlie’s Angels did in the seventies. Only I wasn’t as cool. I just scraped my knees really bad and had to limp around for the rest of the vacation. But, you would have liked that we listened to Fleetwood Mac , The Chain, on cassette a million times. Maybe, that’s why you liked it. Enough of memory lane! Back to reality! Radical Shuttle Driver, had me on the verge of reprising my role. Just this once! I know you knew that I was crazy enough to try it again.

I wanted to tell you in the shuttle, “You know I love this country and our freedom of speech, but there is a time and place.” But couldn’t find the right time or place to tell you. Anyway, I’d vote that holding a potential tipping customer hostage with your views, was not the time or place. We played ping-pong with side glances and widened eyes until we got to Departures. At least, I wasn’t thinking about cancer, cures, and treatments. I was thinking, Radical Shuttle Driver’s next stop should be “Clue Mart.”

When we were safely inside the airport terminal, I asked you, “What would Dad say?” You gave me a blank stare like you didn’t hear me or didn’t want to hear. Or maybe you were just preoccupied double checking your license and boarding pass.

“Opinions are likes a**holes. Everyone has one and they all stink.” I said with an evil, bad-mother, smile, which made you smile too.

“Yeah.” You said. “He was pushing to be right. And the more you push something the worse it get.”

“I know.” I said. “Like I told Dad when he was young and cocky – about your age. You can be right and be alone. What I’d say now, in a little bit softer way, is being right depends on a person’s perspective. And it has little to do with the truth or reality.”

We funneled ourselves through security, relieved, to be at the airport on time and with no major incidents. We were quiet, but content, intent on making it through security to find you a PoBoy. When, the TSA agent, motioned us to the desk, I wondered if we were pushing too hard with this cancer. Were we anything like Radical Shuttle Driver and his politics and religion? Was cancer black and white? Did my constant fear only make it worse? Were you trying to make me feel better instead of making yourself feel better? What if we spent all of our time pushing really hard against cancer, only to lose our lives to the fight? As I put my license away and we got reassembled, I promised myself, I’d chill and enjoy the ride.  No matter what. Then, I smiled and asked, “If we find you a PoBoy, can I have a bite.”