November 30, 2005

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,