Monday, December 12, 2005

December 8, 2005 - A Different Place

Another rendezvous today with a member of the Cancer Underground. Steve, pastor of a nearby Presbyterian Church, had phoned me to suggest that Claire and I meet with him and his wife Cindy, an NHL survivor. That phrase "NHL survivor" makes her sound like some grizzled, toothless ex-hockey player, when in truth Cindy is anything but. (Ah, acronyms!). We meet at the Green Planet, a local coffee shop down the street from our house.

Cindy’s NHL is similar to mine and David’s – the follicular type. She is in remission now, having received heavy doses of chemotherapy, the same CHOP-R regimen. Her first symptom was an enlarged lymph node in her neck. Surgery to remove the entire lymph node for study was easily accomplished. Cindy points out her scar: which is so inconspicuous, no one who wasn’t looking for it would ever notice.

Like David, Don and Charlotte, Cindy’s and Steve’s testimony is immensely helpful. I can’t say we leave that place feeling comforted, exactly – for she is utterly realistic about the difficult experience of chemotherapy, leading me to dread what lies ahead – but knowledge is power, and the more our knowledge increases, the more the meager power we have at our disposal likewise grows.

Cindy was living in California when she was diagnosed. She received treatment at the UCLA Medical Center. She switched to Sloan-Kettering for her follow-up care and monitoring, after she and Steve moved cross-country as he accepted the call to the church in New Jersey. She shares the name of her doctor, Paul Hamlin – one more name for my list of possible second-opinion physicians.

Cindy’s take on the chemotherapy experience is more connected with the psychology and the spirituality of it. She speaks of finding ways to "go to a different place" when the going gets tough – to be aware of the world around her, but somehow not feel so strongly connected to it. Her language calls to mind some experiences I’ve had, in places like the dentist’s chair. The last time I was at the dentist, he actually thought I was sleeping for a moment (even though the only anesthetic had been novocaine). It sounds like this is a useful skill to have, for the chemotherapy patient. I wonder if I will be able to practice this when I am lying on my stomach in Dr. Lerner’s office next Thursday for the bone-marrow biopsy, and he’s inserting a needle into my un-anesthetized pelvic bone.

At the end of our time there, the four of us pray, there in the coffee shop, holding hands. Thank God for friends – friends like Steve and Cindy, Don and Charlotte, and David – who do not wait to be called, but who simply come!

No comments: