17 Dec faith clinic & the emotional phenomenon
This February will mark 4 years free of cancer — and a few female reproductive organs. Though the latter part of that sentence should elicit some kind of immediate emotion in me, it doesn’t. After years of processing/forgetting/dwelling/growing/sleeping/dreaming/and blessings, my feelings are now somewhat like a kaleidoscope crashing to the floor, scattering – little pieces disappearing – found years later in a crevice unseen until I push away the bookshelf in the way.
It may be impossible to emanate the feelings I have each time I walk into the faith clinic, where I first met my gynecological oncologist, where I had my surgery, and where I recovered slowly, but surely. Capturing the small details of my emotions is hard. I think it may be a little like trying to capture an entire 2 hour scene with 100’s of small images rather than a camcorder. But I’m going to try.
I pull into the cancer center garage, take the ticket, knowing I can validate it because I’m a patient. Being a cancer patient has always felt the same, very surreal. I always park in the same place, ground level, which the Medical College has decorated with images of the ocean, trying to create the illusion of being under water. I hear the sound of running water as I enter the building, and it offers me peace, but a sad peace. Water has always been my solitude; however, now it’s been mixed in with pain, endurance, and fear. Mostly fear.
I take the elevator up to the second floor, which is home to the lab and faith clinic. I glance at the people waiting for lab work, and their loved ones who have managed to find their duty as caretakers part of their normalcy. This hits me, and I flash back to when I mysef was rendered helpless, in a wheelchair, and in so much pain. I recall my vulnerability, catheter exposed to the world, so incredibly dependent and yet utterly hopeful. In my head enters the image of my mom, pushing me, fear in her heart, yet total warmth and utter love in her eyes.
I look at the patients and their families, and I see them watch me, now a picture of health, and I can feel their minds analyzing, thinking, “Why is SHE here? Does she have cancer? What kind of cancer does she have?”
Maybe I should have worn a sign, I think to myself. Instead, maybe I should make an announcement, letting them all know I’m just here for a checkup, that I’m fine. But also, I desperately yearn for THEIR stories. Does the man with the deep, fluid filled cough have lung cancer? And if so, is it because he smoked all his life? And is the woman with him his wife or his daughter? Or maybe a hired nurse? I know I’m assuming just like everyone else. But it’s almost impossible not to.
The phlebotomist calls my name, and greets me kindly. “Hi, I’m Carrie, she says. I’ll be caring for you today.” I wonder if she’s been trained to say that. Seems strange from someone so young. As we walk to her station, she asks me if I’m ready for the holiday, and as usual, avoiding making her feel like an ass, I respond with a yes, pretty much, instead of what I really want to say, which is that not EVERYONE celebrates Christmas. It’s not really nice to assume. She tells me about her fear that all the good presents are gone, since she still as all her gifts to buy. I reassure her that shelves must be restocked, and she has nothing to worry about.
But in the midst of this – maybe 4 minute – conversation, my mind wanders back to why I’m here in the first place.
We say our goodbyes, easy enough. And I walk next to all the big, huge, beautiful windows that line the cancer center, until I reach the faith clinic. I like it here, strangely. It’s warm, sunny, safe, and oddly comforting.
I’m confident that I’m healthy because I have come to KNOW that again, after all these years. Of course, this knowledge sure didn’t come quickly; the fear that I used to attach to every ache and discomfort lasted at least a year, maybe 2.
But while I was so afraid then, I have come to live with my aches and pains, and accept them for what they are. I have developed strong beliefs about our deep connection with the universe. And I’m careful about the energy I put into it. I also follow a very simple rule, and that is I don’t worry about things that haven’t happened.
I have my book to read while waiting, but since my eyes can’t get past the the same few lines, I close it. I notice 2 women, maybe in their 30’s waiting with, (who I think is) their mom, sitting in a wheel chair. The 2 younger women are eating McDonalds, a VERY foreign breakfast idea to me.
Even though almost 4 years have passed since I was sitting in a wheel chair, scared, yet utterly hopeful, I STILL have this sense that all of these people are actors, like I am – forced to endure a painful, very scary, very surreal, hopefully temporary scene.
The medical assistant calls my name. I’m not sure if she tells me hers, I just walk through the doors, as I have so many times before. She takes me into the exam room, which is clean, painted in a kind of feminine purple color. I know this must be due to the fact that the doctors in this particular clinic deal mostly with cancers that prey on women.
The exam went well. Dr Yuer seemed please with the way everything looked and felt, and when she’s pleased, so am I, truly. Almost 4 years ago, it was she who removed my cancer, yet it was also she who filled me with faith that my life would go on.
After my surgery, I saw her MANY times that month, then every 3 months, then 4, then 6. And it was during my last appointment, she mentioned “graduating” to a yearly exam. I cried. Not for joy, which would be logical. I cried because I was sad. And I can’t even describe why.
Now a full year later, here I am, laughing and listening to her talk about her not-so-well-behaved 2-year-old son (who I literally remember being born what seems like 6 months ago). The conversation shifts back to me, and it’s now I learn that not only had I “graduated” to yearly exams, I now no longer needed to see her…just a regular OBGYN, like every other “normal” woman. And again, while this should be exciting news, I can’t keep the tears from forming. It’s like losing the one person in the world who you can LITERALLY trust with your life. I have no other explanation. I’m just sad.
Walking out of the cancer center, I feel a little lost. No next appointment. No more faith clinic. No more Dr. Yuer. I know I’m not alone. But I just can’t help feeling desperately so.