Chapter 38: “Role Reversal”
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Okay, when I said that I was bored, I didn’t want this.
I lifted the blue dome, freeing the fragrance of bacon and pancakes to waft into my nostrils. I took in the scent deeply, and smiled; it always smelled better than it tasted. It’s like when my friends and I would stay up all night, and I’d whip them up a batch of pancakes for breakfast. There was nothing quite like the first whiff of a freshly lifted hot cake.
The room’s door had a window on its body, but I always kept the blinds almost all the way down for privacy. I saw someone’s legs in what little window I allowed, so I knew what was next: a knock.
It was Gary… by himself. He wore an unusual look upon his face but wasted no time revealing its origins. “Remember how your Mom had been getting pain in her abdomen?”
I nodded repeatedly, not to answer him, but to prepare myself for whatever came next. No one asks a question like that without serious news.
“They found fibroids all throughout her uterus. They’ve scheduled a full hysterectomy.”
It wasn’t as much of a shock as I had prepared for. I had feared the worst: cancer. This, however, would be a great thing to alleviate her pain. Yet, I still sat there without response for a few moments. Then: “When do they start? And is she here?” I wondered.
“No, but they were able to take her today.”
“Holy shit, that’s fast!” We both chuckled in amazement; we were used to having a waiting period of a month or more in Fort Kent. I had felt this way before when I had tests done, but for a procedure like that?! That’s pretty quick.
“Can I go see her?” I resumed.
“I don’t know, let me ask a nurse,” Gary stated.
Gary left at that moment, giving me time to process this. What’s the recovery time for such a procedure? Could anything go wrong?
After a few minutes, Gary returned with a nurse. She spoke first: “Dr. Allen wants to make sure your counts are high enough. There are a lot of sick people on other floors with influenza, infections, and the like, so we want to be certain that you’re safe.”
“But I can wear a mask. No problem, right?”
“A mask is only good for about fifteen minutes before it becomes worthless and must be replaced.”
“So I’ll bring extra masks.”
“We’ll just wait and see what the results are, okay?”
I nodded. It was frustrating to wonder whether or not I would see my Mom after such a surgery.
An hour passed. My blood results came back, and it was what I didn’t want to hear: the counts were still dangerously low to chance such a trip. The cafeteria at night was one thing; I may have only come across one or two people there, but this was way different.
Dr. Allen knocked on the open door. “Hi, Jamie.” Her tone wasn’t cheerful, so I knew the answer to what I asked next:
“Hello. Can I go see my Mom now?”
Dr. Allen sighed. “I’m afraid your counts are just too low to pay any sort of visit right now. I don’t want you to risk getting ill at a time like this.”
“So there’s nothing I can do? No amount of masks or sanitizer would do the trick?”
“Well, we’re looking for a certain level of white blood cells in your system.” She handed me the printout and pointed to those readings. “We’ll check back later today, and if they can get up a little bit more, then we can reevaluate your predicament.”
Dr. Allen then conducted a routine physical (as they always did). She checked my lymph nodes, heart rate, breathing, belly, and other potential sticking points to my recovery. I was all set on that front.
She left a few minutes later, and I was left sitting there alone, waiting for the moment for Mom to call. Gary had gone downstairs to the Intake Center to wait for her. I couldn’t believe it; I was so close: a few floors away, and yet so far from visiting her during this important time.
I pictured myself by her side, at first completely healthy and normally clothed, and then (more realistically) in my hospital attire, dragging along an IV pole.
But I was unable to do either, and I was left helpless to return the favor. My Mom had been by my side almost every day. Oftentimes she wouldn’t understand why I was so positive while experiencing what I was going through, and I told her: “I know I’m getting out of here, and any painful moments will pass.”
A few hours went by, and I received a phone call; it was Gary. “She’s out. The procedure went really well. She’ll be in pain for a bit, but nothing like she had experienced before. Did you want to talk to her?”
“Yes please.” There was a moment of transferring the receiver and then in a groggy, weak voice: “Hello?”
“Hi, Mom. How are you feeling?”
“Not so great. I’m in a lot of pain.”
“Well, if it’s any consolation, that’s supposed to happen.”
“Are you coming to see me?”
I could hear Gary already responding to her question, but I added: “Listen, I can’t go see you because my counts are too low, but I’ll call you when you get into a room, okay?”
“Okay, I love you.”
“Love you too.”
She was in pain, but there was nothing I could do… except wait the time until she could attentively answer the phone. Gary took the phone and gave me her room number, but he said she was out like a light. So I kept the number and readied myself.
A few more hours passed and I called the number. It was busy. Is this how people feel when they can’t get a hold of me? This was a terrible feeling; all I want to know is if she’s doing ok, but I can’t get ahold of her and she’s out of my reach to visit. This was terrible. Sure, when I’m sick, I’m as cool as a cucumber, but when a family member is sick? I’m a mess.
I called again after a couple of minutes. I finally got through to my Mom. She had slept off some of the pain (and all of the anesthesia) and was finally capable of holding a conversation.
“Hey, Mom. Sorry, I can’t go visit, they said my counts were too low to go on any other patient floors.”
“That’s okay, how are you feeling?”
“Fine. Nothing new here.’
“That’s good, I’ll be out of here soon, to keep you company.”
“Just focus on getting better yourself, Mom. I’ll be fine. I love you, and thanks for being there for me.”
“I love you too. And you’re welcome, you’re my son, I’ll be there for you no matter what happens.”
That felt good to hear. “Thanks, Mom. I’ll talk to you soon. Get some rest.”
I hung up the phone and sat in bed. As lunch approached, I smiled; a thought popped into my mind: “Good luck with the food, Mom.”
This is an ongoing story of my personal battle with Cancer. My hope is that it helps others who are currently experiencing their own battles (whether it be for themselves or a loved one) or to help with early detection.
The way I’m doing it is terrifying for a writer. I’m writing a publically available first-draft outline for an eventual book, chapter by chapter in weekly form. The only reason I’m doing it this way is to get the story out as soon as possible for someone out there who needs a survivor to visit them during their own treatment. If you’re reading this and need someone to talk to, tweet at me and I’ll give you a call. No questions asked. This story is for you and I’ll help any way that I can.
Stay tuned, as I will be posting a new chapter every Monday until the story is complete.
And remember if you experience any Anemic symptoms– get checked for Leukemia as well.
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