Friday, June 10, 2011

Stop the Ride! I Want to Get Off!

You know that feeling you get after being strapped into the seat of roller coaster and you sit there waiting anxiously for the ride to start? It's that combination of fear and nerves, and a quick look back at the station as you wonder if you should scream, "Wait! I want to get off!" But before you have a chance, the car starts to move and it's too late. All you can do is hold on and go for the ride. There's no stopping now. It's going to happen whether you like it or not.

That's how I feel.

I've lost control of what my life used to be. I no longer have choices of what to do with my days. The doctors have become the operators of my wild ride and I'm helpless until they tell me it's all over. Up until this point, it's been that slow, steady, uphill climb to the top. I've reached the peak of the track, and all I can do is look down at the steep plunge in front of me and brace myself for the fall.

What I wouldn't give to be able to go back to the gym. It's been a month since I've lifted a weight or burned 500 calories on an elliptical machine. I can feel my muscles staring to atrophy, and tone is being replaced by flab. I spend my free time getting jabbed with needles, (always in the same vein in my right arm because all of my other ones suck) injected with contrast dye, lying still on a table so every area of my body can be scanned, and worrying about the fact that this is actually the easy part. I haven't even started speeding downward on the roller coaster track, though I can see the drop looming before my eyes. And off in the distance is an upside-down loop that I'm dreading more than the free-fall.

But after a Hellish two months, today, part one of the thrill ride ended. A brain MRI finished the long and arduous serious of pre-op testing. It may seem strange to have a scan of my brain when the cancer is in my cervix, but the doctors need to be thorough. Small cell cancers are tricky little buggers and sometimes one cell will sneak away from its friends, cross though barriers in the body and hide in another organ. It will stay very quiet until its host is least expecting it, then start multiplying so it won't be lonely anymore. When a small cell cancer is present, this can happen anywhere in the body.

So, Jimmi and I made our almost daily trip to Sloan-Kettering at 10:00 this morning. I swear, I'm thinking of having a mattress delivered to the hospital so I can just sleep there and save on the gas. We arrived and went up to the second floor to wait. Just as I finished filling out the forms I've gotten so good at completing, my name was called. Once again, I handed Jimmi my engagement ring, gave him a quick kiss, and followed the tech down the hall.

"Suzanne!" I heard my mom's voice. I turned around to see that she had just arrived, and I was glad Jimmi would have company in the waiting room. I gave a quick smile and wave, and disappeared through the doors into the testing area.

"Have a seat. A nurse will be in shortly to start your IV so we can inject the contrast dye during the test." Yes, I know the drill. I could probably have done it myself by now. As he walked out of the room, I started to shiver. Cold? Nerves? Who knows? I just want to be done with this part.

The nurse came in a few minutes later. "You're back again?" She said with a friendly smile. "Yeah, I really missed you." I said sarcastically. "Can you please do me a favor?" She waited for me to continue. "I only have one good vein, and it's so beaten up and sore. Can you please try to find another one somewhere?" I held out both arms so she could look. Immediately she made a face that didn't give me much hope. "This is a great vein," she said while pushing on the right arm to feel the one vein that was bruised from overuse. "The last nurse said I was developing scar tissue because I've literally been stuck 5 days a week for a month. I feel like a junkie!"

She took pity on me and pressed all over the middle of my left arm until she said, "I think I found one I can work with." She tightened the tourniquet and asked me to make a fist. "I little pinch," she said as she inserted the needle into the virgin vein.

OUCH!! Oh my GOD! Ok, I'll never ask to use another vein again. Lesson learned. Holy CRAP!!

After some pulling and pushing back and forth, the IV was finally taped into place and the nurse left me to wait for the tech to come back. Forty-five minutes later, he arrived. "I'm so sorry for the delay. We had two emergencies and we got backed up." Whatever. Just finish up what you need to do with me so I can get out of here.

I followed him down the hall and we stopped at a metal detector. "Step in, please." I did as I was told and the machine beeped and lit up. The tech looked me up and down. He eyed the button on my jeans, then his gazed moved a little bit higher. "Are you wearing an underwire bra?" he asked. "Yes." "It's ok, we won't be going that low. Come with me."

The room was cold and white. I stood there looking at the huge machine in front of me thinking to myself, "I'm so over this." "Ok, you can lie down on the table and put your head here," he said pointing to a round cradle with a sheet over it. I followed his instructions, then he covered me with a blanket and handed me earplugs. "It's pretty loud in the machine." Yeah, I know. In the last month, I've become a professional. Then he handed me a small, rubber object and said, "This is your panic button. Squeeze it if there's an emergency or if you just don't want to do this anymore."

I can do that? You mean if I squeeze this little round ball, I can stop? It will all be over. I don't want to do this anymore! I don't want to do this anymore!

Oh. He just meant the test. Ok, let's get on with it.

The tech padded my head on either side to remind me not to move, and off he went into the control room. The table started to move backwards, and I closed my eyes. I'm a train going into a tunnel. A subway train in New York City. It's dark in this tunnel. And loud.

Beep! Beep! Beep! Click! Click! Click! Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!

The train thing isn't working. Let's try the tanning bed again. I'm in a tanning bed. I'm warm and toasty.

Beep! Beep! Beep! Click! Click! Click! Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!

It's too loud. Tanning beds aren't this loud. I started to count. Hmmmm. There were eight beeps followed by seven clicks then eight more beeps followed by eight clicks. Then the pattern repeated. I tapped my hand to the beat. Ah, Jimmi would be proud! Eight, seven, eight, eight. Eight, seven, eight, eight. Eight, seven, eight, eight. This is working. Wait! The machine stopped. I'm moving out!

"Ok, ma'am, it's time to give you the contrast dye." In came the nurse to give me the injection. Two minutes later, she was gone and I was moving back into my beat lab. Damn! No more patterned beeping and clicking. Just obnoxiously loud varieties of noises echoing through my head.

"Ok, ma'am, we're done."

The tech took out my IV, unpadded my head and asked me if I had anymore tests today. "Nope. Done with all of my testing now." I said with relief. He questioned me some more, "Are you going up for any chemo treatments now?" Reality of that loop on the track not so far in the distance hit me in the head like a brick. "No, I haven't started that yet." "Ok, ma'am, I'll show you out." Stop calling me ma'am! How old do you think I am?

I walked out to the familiar waiting area and found my mom and Jimmi with a large Panera bag by their feet. "I got lunch!" my mom announced. I forced a smile and we all walked to the lounge area to eat.

The testing is over now. The roller coaster is starting to teeter at the crest of the track. On Tuesday, it will leave its safe platform and shoot straight down, building momentum as it goes. There's no stopping it now. I just hope my seatbelt is tight enough to keep me safe until the ride is over and I can finally get off.


  1. I am thinking of you everyday and sending you lots of love & healing prayers. Much love to you & your family... Laur

  2. I am crying right along with you, babe. But one day this hell will all be behind you. And as soon as that day comes, we'll get to work on finding you a book publisher for this brilliant memoir! Perhaps fame and fortune as an author will be your reward! xo

  3. Although you are in the front car we're all riding along with you, watching over you in our own ways and through our own fears. Some of us can barely hold it together, and then there are the knuckleheads who throw their hands up and scream. We're there behind you, all of us.

    You did not choose this ride but we have all hopped on willingly and with love. The ride WILL end and you...we...will all hop off and go get a snow cone, damned happy that its over and done with...and all is well again.