Perspective
11/30/05

O Best Beloveds, today I had my final test (plus the blood draw to see if my blood count is up to chemo snuff for tomorrow: I haven't heard that it's not, so I guess it is), a bone scan. Now, I have had this, along with the PET and CAT, every six months since 2001, and it is one of the easier ones--a simple shot of something radioactive in the arm, back in two hours, lie still for 45 minutes, and that's that. It's administered by Mabel, a laughing, joking woman who installed a CD player a couple years ago at my request, so I could at least listen to something other than the blood rushing through my head.

When I had the test last, five months ago, there was something strange about Mabel. She neither joked nor smiled nor laughed. She went through the instructions an automaton. I asked her if anything was wrong and she said, curtly, "No." Though it was clearly not true.

On Monday, when I was visiting with the Breast Center gang, and mentioned going upstairs to have the Muga, one of the nurses said "Have you heard about Mabel?" No, I said, but interesting that you asked. "Her youngest daughter, a freshman at Berkeley, was killed. She was a motorcycle rider and they found her one night, by the side of the road." When was this? "About a year ago. Mabel's a totally different person. She's just a shell."

Some places are so dark even Orpheus can not lead you back.

And yet, there was also this: as I waited for my blood draw, an older woman sat next to me, and struck up a conversation about how cold it was in the room (a notable feature of Norris, which is nothing if not Arctic). She was waiting for her chemo, and was a bit worried about how chilled she might be before they got to her. I offered to get her a blanket, but she declined. I asked her if she was anxious about chemo, and she said "Oh, no. I've been doing it for six and a half years now." Really? "Yes. I was doing it once a month, but now they want me to do it once a week. Oh, well. You have to do what you can. I'm 86." And even as I fell madly in love, her burly 40-something son joined her, and began reading the sports section to her. "Now, A Rod--is he really worth that much?" she asked him. "No one is worth that much," he said, and they began a vigorous discussion of why minor league ball, and, indeed, Little League, so much superior to over-priced MLB. As I took my leave, rather reluctantly, I said "Have fun!" instinctively, and then felt ridiculous, only for Son to beam "Oh, we always have fun on chemo day!" And I fell madly in love all over again. Oh, how I long to be both of them, right now, together.

But first, there is Thursday. I'll report from the other side.

The view from here,

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