Ritualistic Comfort

Sitting at a table in Panera bread, a bit mystified at my frequent return. It’s a little about convenience, a bit about good food, a lot about having a big table to spread out my stuff. It’s also pretty good for people watching: A Red Hat Society meeting is taking place in the reserved room today.

Why I shouldn’t come here: a couple years ago I had to crawl out of a bathroom stall on my stomach because I couldn’t get the door unlocked. I brushed off, washed, then reported the mishap to the manager on duty. “Yeah, we’ve been having problems with that lately.” Period. No sorry. No free cup of coffee. No sign on the bathroom door. Perhaps it’s that living-on-the-edge part of me that keeps luring me back to this no-remorse establishment with gourmet sandwiches.

This is my stop-off after radiation today. It must be day five because an x-ray is taken every fifth day to make sure the coordinates are OK. Still feeling good. No redness. Slathering on creams twice a day. In the radiation teach, my nurse went over details of treatment, most of which were no surprise. However, she did mention that I shouldn’t take any anti-oxidant supplements during treatment. They create a protective wall around cells and may keep the radiation from penetrating cells. After those cells are broken down they need to be flushed out, so I’m supposed to drink lots of water. After radiation, new cells need energy, so I’m supposed to eat protein-rich foods in my well-balanced diet. Consequently, I carry my water jug in the van to my daily appointments and a can of mixed nuts is by my side for a quick burst of protein when I come out. Every day. Yet another source of power: I need radiation but I can do SOMETHING.

That reminds me of my sister’s comment when her husband came home just before supper to a houseful of four children under five years old. Hers and mine. Toddler antics were keeping three moms – my sister, our mom and me – dancing in the kitchen. He was a wall flower and stayed outside this wildly choreographed scene. Finally, my sister turned to him. “Do SOMETHING for God’s sake!” Come dance with us! A call to action. I need it sometimes. I want to say it sometimes. The struggle can be in finding the SOMETHING.

During chemo, I had to be tagged every visit with a wristband. A reminder that I was handing over the reins. On my left wrist I wear a LIVESTRONG yellow band and an Italian charm bracelet concealing a lymphedema medic alert not to squeeze or to poke my arm. That’s the wrist I would hold out for the wristband. Unsure how it happened, but one day it ended up on my right wrist. After my port was accessed, I headed back to the front desk. It had to be changed. I was edging on frantic that the ritual had been upset. Professional baseball players have their little rituals and I had mine. I cut the bracelet off and said, “I’m sorry but I really need another band printed and put on my left wrist. I don’t know what I was thinking when I held out my right arm.” No blink of the eye. I wasn’t the first. At the end of the day, I stopped at the desk and reached for the black-handled scissors. Then I Purelled; most chemo patients handled those scissors on their way out – over 100 patients a day.

Outside the Museum of Fine Arts last week, Will loved the geese wandering around pecking at the grass. One of them had a wide band around its neck. Will wondered what it was so I explained the tag. Then he asked if it hurt the goose. I immediately said it didn’t, but I wasn’t confident in my answer. Who’s to say if an innocent looking band is painful? Just a new normal for the goose, like it or not. By the way, these were civil geese, unconcerned with humans – no hissing or gawky neck moves.

Staying strong and still using Panera’s bathroom,