September 11, 2013

The TV in the YMCA lobby was running the complete footage from September 11, 2001. The fifteen minutes I watched was the turning point: The first plane may have been an accident. Then the second plane hit. And somewhere in that city on business was Bill. And somewhere else was my girlfriend since kindergarten. And somewhere else were our fish friends, a couple we met diving. Long hours after the attack, Bill was finally able to call me. He was fine, but how should he get home? He said there was availability to fly – what did I think? We agreed. Never would there be a safer time to fly. I emailed our friends. They were all OK. Yesterday afternoon I met with my oncologist – my 48-month check-up. All was good! However, I was concerned about my blood pressure. My doctor chuckled and explained that they didn’t really look at that, after I was coming to see my oncologist! I signed my name on the dotted line for another breast cancer study. This one is looking for other possible genes that may contribute to the disease. Mine was not genetic, but since I had been tested, I qualified to be part of the study. This one was pretty easy: they just needed three tubes of blood and my signature giving them permission to rip cells apart, perhaps create a cell line if the researchers find anything interesting while looking at my cells.

From the oncologist’s office, I dropped down one floor to the Infusion Suite. Where I go every month for an injection as part of another study. One shot usually takes 2 – 4 hours. The test drug is expensive and cannot be ordered from the pharmacy until I’m present and accounted for. This gives me time to wait and people watch. And some days it’s an easy day. And some days I can feel my blood pressure rise as my body wants to flee. I see Infusion nurses and techs more consistently than I see many of my local friends. My regular nurse was out on her honeymoon, but my fill-in showed me a picture of my nurse in her wedding gown with her husband. She couldn’t have been a more beautiful bride. I should expect no less. She is a beautiful person who slugged through every round of chemo with me, and now apologizes for the poke of every monthly injection.

While I wait for the medicine, next to me is another patient waiting for his chemo. He’s probably in his 60’s, bald, and has a backwards-C scar on his head that’s a bigger C than what I can make with my fingers and thumb. His speech is slurred, but he’s still insistent on telling his nurse his identifiers without his wife’s help. It takes seconds for him to get his last name off his tongue, but his birth date flies out clearly. After my injection, I open the curtains and he is still waiting for his chemo to arrive from pharmacy. I smile at him. He gives me the thumbs-up, and I leave.

My 4-hour’s at MGH puts me in rush hour traffic out of Boston. Moving at a snail’s pace, I see several enormous half-mast flags. Stars and stripes at half-mast look like they are crying.

At 8 p.m., I have picked Liam up from our friends’ house and Bill has picked up Will from gymnastics. All Malcolms are safely tucked inside our house where Tuesday night’s dinner dishes are still on the counter. Bill and I make swoops through the kitchen before moving the boys toward the bedtime routine. Picking up the shambles of 24 hours seemed like a gift. And not as important as reading in bed with Liam and talking about the school day with Will.