Before I am completely buried under the growing piles of boxes that surround me, before tomorrow comes along and sweeps me up in one work drama or another, I need to take a minute and offer some thoughts on yesterday’s three-month checkup.
As I sat in the waiting room yesterday morning, paying particular attention to a very young woman seated across from me, I tried as always to concentrate on my book and tune out the televised blatherings of Good Morning America. Then suddenly I looked up and saw a familiar, smiling face. It had been almost two years since I’d seen her, but I felt an instant rush of affection and recognition. NURSE SARAH!
My team of caregivers was an extensive and ever-changing crew – headed, of course, by my fearless gyn-onc Christina Chu. But Sarah, a supremely compassionate, gifted and funny nurse practitioner, was with me from my first in-patient chemo in February to the last one in June. I loved so many of the people who took care of me, but secretly (and now, not so secretly) Sarah was always my favorite – one of those special people who you meet in a shitty circumstance (i.e. while being treated for cancer) and think, “Wow, you’re so cool. If I met you outside of Cancerland, I would totally want to hang out with you and be your friend.”
So it was with surprise and delight that I spied Sarah in the waiting room yesterday. She greeted me with a huge, warm hug, and sat down with me to check in and see how I was doing. She commented repeatedly, her eyes wide with glee, on how fantastic I looked (nothing a cancer warrior loves to hear more; cancer has, in fact, made me far more vain than I ever thought I could be), and asked after my husband. I told her about the recent news of the HNPCC mutation, the lingering neuropathy in my feet and my adventures as a runner. She cheered the news of our impending move to South Jersey (where she, too, lives) and gave me another great big hug before heading back into the exam suite.
I waited for a few more minutes after our encounter before being called back for my appointment, but suddenly my heart was so much lighter, my nerves so much calmer. Seeing Sarah, remembering the condition I was in when we were last together on Silverstein Seven, and having her react to me in the here and now with such utter delight and positivity – it just lifted me up, made me that much more aware of the triumph that is my life.
Not surprisingly, the checkup was – as weird as it sounds – almost pleasant, and filled with good news: I can finally have my chest port removed. I have finally graduated to checkups every four months instead of every three. During the course of my conversation with my doctor, I found myself being more assertive and proactive with my questions and concerns – something I continually strive to do. And today, one day after my visit, I got the call – which usually takes weeks – that my CA125 is normal (which I knew it would be, given my recent clean CT scan, but it’s always nice to hear.) Of course, I attribute all of this good momentum to my encounter with Sarah.
Maybe it’s because the two year anniversary of finishing treatment is approaching, but after yesterday, I find myself feeling a touch nostalgic for the people who saved my life. It surprises me to realize how easy it has been to lose sight of them. I see my oncologist often, and I love her firm handshake and the way she always apologizes for the cold speculum, but the truth is, while she is the one who cut me open and removed my cancer and set the course of my treatment, there were dozens of people without whom I never would have made it.
So to them, right now, I just want to offer a heartfelt – and never-ending – thank you.