I am back from my trip to Key West. In case you didn’t know, I spent last week with the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults on their Key to Keys trip. The group biked from Baltimore to Key West over eight days and I was a support driver. We stopped at various cities along the way. I promise to write about it soon. It was an amazing experience that opened several doors for me on every level.
Today I had back-to-back appointments with two of my doctors. I saw my oncologist in the morning and then my orthopedic surgeon in the afternoon. When I scheduled the appointments I figured I might as well get it all done in one sweep.
I got my dose of reality this morning when I walked into the cancer center. I started taking my chemo pills on Tuesday when I got home. Luckily I was given two weeks off. I had the week before the trip and the week of the trip off. I am very thankful that I had those 2 weeks off. It was a lifesaver. As I was walking to the check in area I noticed many of the other patients looking at me. Between the white hair and the over 30-year age gap between us, I was a sight to see. I checked in and talked with the nurses and staff who work there. I hadn’t been there in over a month so I was happy to see them and catch up. I knew some of them had seen photos online of the trip. After checking in I sat by my mom and avoided eye contact with everyone.
I quickly looked up and saw three family friends who we hadn’t seen in months. It was so weird because we had just been talking about them. We said hello and exchanged several hugs. I had even more people staring at me now. After being on my trip last week I got used to greeting people with hugs and saying hello. They sat and talked with us for a while until they had to go upstairs for their appointment. After they left I noticed that the woman sitting near us had moved. Apparently when I was talking with our friends she pointed at me and said to my mom, “I guess she must work here since she seems to know everyone.” My mom responded with, “Actually no she’s been a patient here for a long time,” She then said in a condescending tone to my mom, “well she looks really good to be a patient here.” All I can say is thank God I didn’t hear that comment or else my sassiness would’ve come out. Last time I checked I am still a cancer patient like everyone else. Although my hair is white and today I look good, I still take my chemo pills 5 days a week. I don’t fit the stereotypical cancer patient description. Guess she was taking a once over of everyone in the waiting room.
After getting my blood work we went upstairs to see my oncologist. While I was in Key West I got a henna tattoo of a bike on my ankle to remember the trip. A couple of the people on the trip got tattoos but there was no way I was going to get a real one. I can barely make up my mind when it comes to simple decisions. Plus I am afraid of needles. When my doctor walked into the exam room I told him about my leg getting swollen after the trip from flying and being on my feet. He took one look at my ankle and said, “What is that?” I said it was a henna tattoo and would fade away in a couple of weeks. It certainly fooled him. I couldn’t stop laughing. He knew I would also be seeing my orthopedic surgeon and we decided I wouldn’t say anything about the henna just to see his reaction.
Once my appointment was over we decided to do some random errands to kill time. We didn’t have enough time to go home so we headed towards my orthopedic surgeons office. We stopped for lunch near the hospital and then drove around for a little while. Once we got to the hospital we went up to the chemo floor and visited my old nurses. I absolutely love visiting them and catching up. It is very rare that we get to see everyone with our different schedules and timing. We got to see a big group of them today and I knew everyone really well. I grew close to them when I was in the hospital for my inpatient chemo. When you’re stuck in the hospital for four days and not allowed to leave your floor, the nurses become part of your family.
We then went to another section of the hospital where my orthopedic surgeon’s office is located. I checked in and then was called back. It’s always the same routine no matter what office we go to. They weigh you and then ask your height. I didn’t have anything else taken since my vitals were recorded this morning at my other appointment. When we walked into the exam room it had a unique smell that both of us picked up on. Only we noticed the smell since the nurse told us she couldn’t smell it because of her cold. Then the nurse started asking me the other normal questions but it sounded like I was being interrogated. As you can imagine I ran with it. When she asked, “do you take illegal drugs” I responded with, “no” then leaned over to my mom and said, “Depends on what you define as illegal”. Then my absolute favorite question is, “are you in pain?” Let me see I had a tumor removed over a year ago and then radiation to my knee and it still hurts. I said it was a 5 on a scale of 1-10, which is in the middle. I knew when I signed up for this rodeo that I would have to deal with knee pain for a long time. I have just learned to deal with it. She then asked, “How long has this pain been here?” I quickly said, “I have had it for awhile.” Apparently that wasn’t specific enough so I had to give the exact amount of time. I just went with three months.
After she was done asking the questions she got up to leave and said, “oh I do smell that now. I will be right back.” She came in with a can of some type of air freshener and sprayed the room. The label should have said, “A little goes a long way” because that stuff was strong. Instead of reacting like a normal person I started laughing. I was laughing so hard that I couldn’t talk and my mom was laughing too. Between the interrogating questions and the spray we just couldn’t stop laughing. When my surgeon walked in we were will still laughing and we couldn’t pull it together. Then he started laughing too. What else could you do?
During the first part of my appointment I could tell that my surgeon was looking at my ankle. I figured he was probably wondering when I got the tattoo. I didn’t say anything, to see if he would respond like my oncologist earlier this morning. After changing into my hospital shorts so he could look at my knee I told him it was a henna tattoo. He was happy to hear that and said that when he walked out of the room while I was changing, he had made a “mental note” of the new addition. Once again I started laughing because he didn’t want to bring any unwanted attention to it. Meanwhile my oncologist had no problem pointing it out and asking what the heck it was.
I didn’t mind having two appointments today in two locations. I would rather get in all done in one sweep then having to go back and forth different times during the week. Plus I got to see people at both places that I haven’t seen in awhile. It gave me the opportunity to catch up with everyone and to visit. On our way home we stopped for ice cream. When I was first diagnosed we would stop for ice cream each time on the way home after appointments with my oncologist. We hadn’t stopped for ice cream after appointments in a long time so I figured today was the perfect day to stop.