When the meeting was over Dr. D led me back down the hall to talk to the same nurse I'd met during Clinic Day in case I had any new questions. As soon as she saw me she blurted out, "Oh my GOD! I had NO IDEA how sick you were! I'm seriously so glad you're ok." Wait, what? "When Dr. D told me what kind of cancer you had I was totally shocked. You know he had a friend whose daughter died from the same thing, right?" Well, that was delicate. Thanks. "Yeah, he just told me," I managed as my brain was snapped out of visions of pink and back into Hell. I tried to clear out the cancer thoughts since I didn't want them sharing space with the baby thoughts so I quickly changed the subject to get the nurse back on track. A few minutes later I was back in the car and off to meet my mom for lunch next door before crossing the street into Cancerland.
It's really amazing how much one side of a street can differ from another. Turning left off the exit brings hope and new life. Turning right off the exit brings sickness and death. I wish I could always turn left.
But I had to turn right.
All of the warm fuzzies I'd gotten from the morning's visit instantly left my body as soon as I set foot into the cold, sterile environment at the cancer center. The smell of latex gloves, hand sanitizer and chemo drugs immediately hit my nose and caused a sensory overload that brought me right back to the days when I'd sit in that building for hours as the poison made its way to every one of my cells, healthy or not. "I hate the smell in here," I mumbled to my mom, who'd heard me say it many times before. "I know you do. But if that smell is what kept you alive, I'll take it." Yeah, yeah. Way to be an optimist, Mom. Up to the third, and my least favorite, floor we went. I tried not to notice all the sickly-looking patients in wheelchairs waiting for their chemo treatments. I kept my eyes on the floor, only looking up while checking in with the receptionist. I filled out the usual form, checking all the boxes that applied to my current mental and physical state and handed the clipboard back to the woman behind the desk. I sat back down and turned to my mom, "I have to pee," I whined like a potty-training toddler. My mom understood the look of concern in my eyes. I hate using the bathrooms at the cancer center, mainly because the smell of the soap reminds me of being there for long and torturous hours of chemo. But I didn't have a choice. I got up and found my way around the corner to the bathroom right outside the door that leads to the small cubicles where at least 30 people at a time are being infused with life-saving poison. I stepped into the lavatory and my brain immediately recognized the odor of expelled chemo toxins in the air. Did you know chemo drugs smell as they leave the body? When I was going through treatments I felt like it wasn't possible to wash the scent away from my skin. I peed that smell, I sweat that smell, I lived that smell. And here it was again. I quickly grabbed the counter by the sink to steady myself as the dizziness began. Then the nausea kicked in and I felt the color draining from my face. I finished up my business as quickly as I could, rinsed my hands with just water and hurried back to join my mom in the waiting room. I plopped down into the chair next to her, reached into my bag for some Purell and waited for my name to be called.
"Suzanne?" said an unfamiliar nurse and I hopped up to follow her to the tiny room where she'd take my weight, blood pressure and blood. It was like the movie Groundhog Day. The same routine each time. After my vitals were recorded I walked the rest of the way down the hall to the next waiting room where my mom was sitting. I was pretty calm this time since I wasn't minutes away from learning scan results that could change my fate in an instant. I just wanted to be done already so I could go home and think about babies! That's when the next nurse, who looked like she was about to give birth at any second, came to take us to the exam room. "Wow!" I exclaimed when I saw her. "When did that happen?" She giggled, "About nine months ago. Tomorrow is my last day of work and then I'm out for maternity leave." A few months ago, just looking at a glowing pregnant woman would've caused me to leave the room in tears. But not this time. I knew it would only be a matter of months before I'd be in the exact same position. Well, not exactly...but close enough.
Dr. G entered the room and we chatted about my trip to Europe and impending baby plans, then she listened to my lungs and pressed on my stomach a bit. "I tried to move this appointment to September so we'd be on schedule with scans again but they wouldn't let me," I explained. She nodded, "I know. We're a bit screwed with our timing now. But I think it's ok for me to stretch out our appointments a little bit now. Let's say I'll see you in six months instead of three. If you need me before then, we can always get you in." I assume she could tell what was going on in my head because she added, "We will need to make your appointments farther apart at some point. It's been two years now. I think it's time." I always knew this day would come but I didn't expect to feel so dependent on my three-month check-ups. "I'm scared," I said quietly. Dr. G was understanding, "I know. You'll see Dr. L next month and talk to him about it to see if he feels comfortable going longer in between appointments. But I think it's ok to only see me every six months unless you need me." "No offense," I broke in, "but I really don't want to see you before then." She nodded in agreement. "I just want you to know I'm here for you." After wishing each other a wonderful last month of summer, my mom and I put our imaginary blinders on and rushed through the waiting room full of people who looked like I did two years ago. We descended the three flights of stairs and I waved to the receptionist at the main door, "See you in a month!" I called to her as we headed out of the building.
I left Cancerland and crossed the street, heading back in the direction of Baby Central. I like that side so much better. Luckily I'll be able to stay to the left of the exit for a little while before crossing back over again. I am thrilled to announce that, as of one hour ago, our contract with Lyndsay has officially been signed! That means she is cleared to begin her ovary shut-off and uterus prepping medication NEXT WEEK! Then, in exactly 27 days, our little girls will make their way into Lyndsay's nice, warm oven where, hopefully, they'll set up camp for the next nine months until they're ready to break free.
Holy COW! It's really happening!!!