Monday, January 26, 2009

Omigod, I can't believe this is happening. In the near year that I've been visiting the MS Cancer Center for chemo and Herceptin, I've never once had to wait in the public area. The receptionist always says by rote, "Have a seat and if they haven't called your name in an hour, come see me."

As fucking if. I stride right by the old ladies and men waiting outside the doors of the chemo ward, inwardly laughing at their sheeplike mentality—couldn't they see that the chemo ward is empty and there's no need to wait outside? Outside the doors where it smells like hospital food and illness. Where the average age must be 70. Where the dirty old men stare at my tits to the extent that I want to scream out "They're cancer tits, okay?" And where the women wear orthopedic shoes, bandanas and polyester.

Well, I certainly got my comeuppance today, as I'm now sitting in the public waiting area typing this, trying not to breathe in the germy air. Thank god I have tights on under my dress or I'd be completely flipping out about my skin touching the nasty fabric of this chair.

An hour ago I sauntered in past the waiting area of sick sheep and took a seat in one of the chemo pods, as the receptionist told me there were no rooms at the moment. My usual room—room #1, the corner one with the best views—was occupied by an old man.

So I waited. And waited. And finally told her that I didn't need a room, just get me started in the pod. A few minutes later the managing nurse, who I'm friendly with, told me he needed my pod seat since they were so backed up.

"Where should I wait?"

"Out there," he said, motioning for me to exit through the glass doors into the area I scoffed at. (Jesus Christ, there's a maid sweeping the carpet under my feet at this very moment, what the fuck?)

"Out there?," I said with what felt like panic. Out there? Why, I never. Never had to sit out there in a whole year. They'll call me, he said. But I'd already Wet-Wiped down the chair in that pod, 'do I have enough Wet Wipes to start over?' I thought instinctually.

Let me explain how these infusion days work. I go to chemo ward first. They draw blood, send to lab—CA 125 and CA 153, tumor marking tests for breast and ovarian CA—and doctor waits to get the results. I then go in to see Dr. Schwartz, who looks over my bloodwork, checks my vitals, does manual exam and then sends me to scheduling. I schedule my next infusion, three weeks hence. I then go back over to chemo ward, usually head to room #1, sanitize that room—the table where I put my computer, the counter tops, all the handles and buttons I must touch and set up the bed height etc. I wait on the pharmacy to send up the meds, which can take up to an hour. Once the meds finally arrive, I'm hooked up to the IV via the port (catheter) implanted above my right breast. Then it's an hour and a half of infusion time.

I have these days and their machinations down to a controllable routine. Which has been thrown completely off course by me having been essentially kicked out of the comfortable chemo pad to the uncomfortable public waiting area. I'm typing so as not to have a panic attack and bolt. In a few more minutes, I shall see about rescheduling at a less busy time. I'm very, very uncomfortable by this change in my routine.

And even more uncomfortable being treated like 'the others'. Elitism aside, contributing to this out of control vulnerability is the fact that I'm still the youngest fucking patient here. Every day I hear of women my age being diagnosed in the area. So where the fuck are they? These young wome 'just like me'. All I'm asking for is someone under the age of 40.

And to get the hell out of Macy's and back into Bergdorf's. I do not like this one bit. Not at all. They'd better fucking call me soon or I'm out of here. This is way beyond my comfort zone and after the past couple of weeks, I'd been looking forward to nothing but the comforts of normality this week. Not a good start. At all. Seriously, this is not in the plan.