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Close Encounters of the Strange Kind

Because I have seen the inside of more medical facilities in the past month than I have in the past ten years, I am learning a lot about the variances. Some are insignificant, but some are important. Others are almost comical.

I have had two procedures in a state of the art hospital, brand spanking new, with the staff wearing shiny expressions to match the décor. I have visited upscale places with piped in muzak and an assortment of snacks. And I have been to no-frill offices, the austerity of the exam rooms matching the plain reception area without a magazine or coffee machine in sight. The contrast provides an interesting study in the differences offered to patients. As far as I can tell, it is the same adage that they use in real estate: location, location, location.

Day before yesterday I had a PET scan in a portable unit, a trailer attached weekly to a massive tractor and hauled to another site at another hospital without the funds to own one outright. I checked in at admissions and then made my way to the parking lot where the technician was waiting for me to hop aboard the “freight elevator” to be hoisted up to where he stood. If I hadn’t been so scared, I would have laughed. But we were old friends, the tech and I, since he had called the day before to calm my worries. (He had failed to mention the elevator.)

They inject you with a radioactive dye and then you must lie perfectly still for forty-five minutes while it does its work, coursing through your arteries and veins. I prayed. That seems to be my hobby lately, my idle moments filled with quiet conversations with God. I try not to sound as desperate as I feel, but He knows the desires of my heart. And my fears.

I was told that I needed to empty my bladder so that it didn’t show up as a bright sunburst during the picture taking, and so I was once again shown to the wobbly elevator and escorted into the building. I shuffled across the parking lot in my socks and thongs. I thought I looked rather like a Japanese geisha. Ok, that was a stretch, but I think you get the image.

The scan itself was painless, although lying there for an additional thirty minutes while the machine whirred around me was a little unsettling. I am sure that by now, my body is able to glow in the dark after so much exposure to radiation. But none of that trumps the anxiety that comes from the waiting and wondering what will be uncovered with this test. Somehow, in the early days of such a diagnosis, the news is never encouraging as they assess the situation in all of its ugly reality.

Tomorrow, I begin chemo. It will be yet another venture in the unknown. I hope that those to whom I have entrusted my life will be kind, offering a smile or a word of encouragement. I have encountered some lovely health care workers, who can make even the most difficult procedure tolerable. And sadly, I have met some whose career choice I have questioned. I guess that is true of most professions, but in medicine, it makes a huge difference.

I thank those of you who are following along on this journey. I must admit that I am a reluctant traveler, but I must walk the difficult path if I am to reach the destination. I appreciate the company.

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