Monday, November 07, 2011

November 7, 2011 - Kyrie Eleison

This morning I rode the train back to New York City, for some follow-up scans at the Nuclear Medicine Department at Memorial Sloan-Kettering. One was a repeat of the same scan I had the day before my radioactive-iodine treatment.  The other was a CT scan.

Last Wednesday, the day before the treatment, I swallowed a pill containing a small amount of radioactive material. It was just for diagnostic purposes, the technician informed me, and was small enough that it didn't call for any special safety precautions.

The scanner wasn't the familiar donut-shaped CT scanner. It had the same exceedingly narrow table to lie down on, but instead of the donut there were a couple of square pads, each about the size of an old LP record album.  They could be positioned a number of different ways on movable arms.

When I asked, the technician told me it's called a gamma camera (at least in layman's terms). The difference between this scan and a CT scan, he went on, is that a CT scan provides its own radiation, but this gadget simply measures the radiation already present inside me. The contents of the capsule I'd just swallowed, in other words.

OK, so this is one of those bring-your-own-radiation joints.

I had a similar scan again today, with the difference that those square pads are looking for radiation emanating not from last Wednesday's appetizer but from Thursday's 120-millicurie main course. I suppose this gamma scan result, combined with the CT scan, tells the doctors something worth knowing about either the effectiveness of the radioactive-iodine treatment (whether there was indeed any residual thyroid tissue left over after the surgery and whether the radiation successfully zapped it) or about how my body's doing at getting rid of the radioactivity.

The technician who ran the CT scanner told me afterwards that there's going to be some kind of medical pow wow tomorrow, and that I should hear something not long after that.

What I can expect to hear, I have no idea, since my understanding has been that the radioactive-iodine treatment is merely a prophylactic measure following my (presumably) successful surgery. What these scans will actually tell the doctors is beyond me.

Before getting off the New Jersey Transit train, I'd been listening to music on my iPod.  I decided I was familiar enough by now with my itinerary through the New York subway that I could act like so many other straphangers and leave the headphones on. It so happened that I was listening to Gregorian Chant by the Benedictine monks of Christ in the Desert Monastery of northern New Mexico. I'd spent a week of my sabbatical with them a half-dozen years ago.

It was a rather odd experience to make my way through the bustling commuter crowd in Penn Station with the otherworldly tones of Gregorian Chant sounding in my ears. Although my noise-dampening headphones muted most of the station noises and P.A. system announcements, the louder ones were still intelligible. Those station noises sounded like they'd been dipped into the monastic chant like a waffle immersed in maple syrup.

I found the chant changing my attitude towards the day, and about my fellow-travelers as they charged about every which way, Manhattan-style, on whatever urgent business had brought them to those subterranean transit-chambers.

Kyrie eleison, sang the monks of Christ in the Desert. Lord have mercy.

Kyrie eleison on me, medical pilgrim that I am.

Kyrie eleison on the Wall-Street type in the pricey tailored suit with the American flag pinned to his lapel.

Kyrie eleison on the woman in a chador, pulling her sleepy-eyed preschooler along by the hand.

Kyrie eleison on the two soldiers leaning against the wall in their desert-camouflage uniforms.

Kyrie eleison on the young woman with the flowing black hair and the hoop earrings, tottering along in suede boots with impossibly high heels.

Kyrie eleison on the homeless man on the bench, and on the transit cop prodding him awake and ordering him to move along.

Standing on the uptown subway platform, looking across the two sets of tracks at my downtown-bound counterparts, I decide to launch some silent kyries at 'em.

Random acts of prayer. It seems somehow subversive.

They have no idea, those people I've picked randomly out of the crowd to target with my kyries. Do they even know someone's just blessed them?

Do I realize the same, when I've been similarly blessed by some other anonymous fellow-believer?

I feel, in those moments, like we're all swimming together in a sea of blessings.


Anonymous said...

Still praying, CM/HM

Jeanie said...

Ahhhh.....swimming in a sea of blessings....lovely.

Stormy said...

beautiful passage Rev Carl. Image of my home town as a Sea of Blessings.

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