He had been gone for about six months when he walked through the door of the third floor doctor’s office. Something was different, though it really wasn’t readily apparent.
The same faux cherry furniture was arrayed – that’s the best word really arrayed – in rows and boxes giving the illusion of a living room while maintaining the industrial look of the waiting room. The beige walls continued to lack the personality of anything and it too strove for soothing, as did the grey striped carpet.
No one was soothed. No one was happy; everyone was afraid or at least apprehensive. The automatic door fitted with a handicapped button swooshed and cajinged every time someone entered or left the chemo suite where all the patients were getting controlled poison to save their lives.
“I’ll be right back,” he told his wife as he walked to the suite carrying a dozen donuts.
“My God. How are you?” asked Dawn the head nurse of the suite who reminded him of a Hispanic Farah Fawcett with full head of frosted blonde hair falling in a controlled tumble.
“I’m fine,” he said. “I’d like to say I miss you guys, but that would be lying.”
“I just wanted to drop these by.”
“Thanks,” she said. “We appreciate it.”
He scanned the room. The industrial blue steel framed recliners he remembered were all there and unfortunately occupied. Blood was being drawn; chemicals added to IV’s and nurses speaking in hushed tones. Less than 29 months ago he knew all the patients, all the nurses, was a member of the family. Now he looked and to the new patients he was either an intruder or the future, a goal they aspired to or a lament they dare not discuss. He was a survivor.
“I have to go,: he said feeling as an outsider and a member somehow all at the same time.
The nurse called his name before he could sit and he walked to the phlebotomy area for patients without ports, catheters, or lumens. They drew five vials from the huge vein in his right arm and sent him back to the waiting room.
In the faux cherry chair he waited with his wife. His stomach churned as patients – one after another – went to their appointments. One minute turned to five, which turned to ten, which turned to twenty, and finally to thirty when the short African-American aide, Nicole, called his name. He jumped up, walked quickly to the door, and for a minute forgot his wife was with him.
Every time he saw Nicole, he remarked that she looked thinner and her new hair style was a great fit. In the pas two years the aide had neither gained nor lost a pond or changed her look. She always smiled and said thank you, thinking he was scared or nervous or both.
She was right.
Every time he walked through the door to the examination rooms he felt like he was choking. He made idle conversation, talking way too fast.
When they got to the examination room he made a beeline for the blood report. It’s why he was there; everything was secondary. In two years he had read enough of his own reports to know good news from bad and dangerous from safe.
He looked for one of three things next to each entry: a blank meaning normal; an “H” meaning high: an “L” meaning low, or a “C” meaning critical.
First things first; there were no C’s. A couple of L’s and a pair of H’s. Where was it? The one thing he was looking for.
And there it was. Platelets. For more then 18 months his platelets had never been above 100 and today they were 130. “Yeah baby yeah,” he shouted as he ineptly moved his 55-year-old body into a very bad moon walk.
“Honey! Platelets – 130.”
“Yay,” she shouted.
The aide got all caught up in their enthusiasm and said, “That’s great. Way better than last time.”
The good news just kept coming.
The scale showed a drop of seven pounds and he was as happy with that as he was the blood.
“Okay Lori (nurse practitioner) will be in and then Dr. Martin (hematologist),” see you in a few months.
The husband and wife glowed in the same kind of intimate way newlyweds did the day after.
“I just might live through this,” he said.
“You just might,” she said almost giggling.
Lori came in probed, questioned, and took notes.
“Your red blood is a little low, but hemoglobin is great so everything looks good,” she said. “See you in a few months.”
Dr. Martin a thoughtful graying man in his early sixties or late fifties came in wearing his white ubiquitous lab coat.
“Everything looks good,” he said. “You are in a category now. Two years past diagnosis and everything is still good. I think we will see you again in six months.”
The three were elated.