Thursday, May 24, 2018

On a bumpy ride, might as well write

I am writing this in the back of a speeding car with bad shock absorbers, to see how it goes, on my way home from Dana-Farber. Rap music blares, and hot turnpike air blows onto my face from the driver’s open window.

Healing Garden at Dana-Farber

On the way there, I asked her to turn it down. She did so, infinitesimally. I asked her again. "I did," she said. Her boyfriend, sitting next to her, turned slightly and looked at me out of the corner of his eye. Her move reminded me of when my parents asked me to pass the salt to my sister and I moved it so slightly across the table that she would have needed an extension arm to get it.

Aha, I thought, I remembered to bring headphones. I pulled them out and put them in my  iPhone. Only one side worked; the other was pure static. I blasted Dear Evan Hansen. Anybody have a map?

She opened her window. My throat hurt. I must have picked something up over the weekend at The American Association of Journalists and Authors conference in New York. It was successful but exhausting. In my second year as a member, I knew more editors and writers with whom to schmooze. They are a friendly bunch, more than willing to share information and tips. 

The part that might have started my throat hurting was a “speed dating” event with editors, Client Connections. You have nine minutes to make your case, and then you’re up and out and a new batch floods in. It is a lottery. You can get zero or five. I got five. By the last one, with a sweet editor from WebMd, I couldn’t get out a full sentence without coughing. I apologized and asked if she could talk, to tell me what they need. 

Beforehand, client connections veterans said that is probably the best approach with publications like this anyway. I did speak long enough to tell her one idea and give her my spiel. (Four bone marrow transplants, knowledgeable about cancer survivorship and about health writing, a valuable combination, knowing both sides, newspaper training…)

Back to my car ride.

I texted Katie. She said to think happy thoughts.

Did I say my throat hurt? I skipped tennis this morning. I also skipped yoga. If I skip both of those, you know I'm under the weather. Maddie and I walked around the lower lake. Dragging, I found it hard to believe I was the same person who hiked 12 miles less than a month ago. It didn’t depress me , just reminded me of days when I was dragging due to being really sick.

On the ride to Boston, I took an oxycodone. The bottle is in my purse on my ECP days. I don’t automatically take it anymore; I have not had serious pain so it is not necessary. I hardly ever take it so that I figure when I do, it is OK. 

When I arrived, I told the story to my funny nurse, Mark. It cracked him up. He called over another nurse, Diane, and had me tell her the story. A pathology fellow came around. We talked about my high blood pressure issue. I remembered that the last time I saw him, he had told me he used to be a monk. The discussion turned towards meditation for blood pressure control. (Mark is all for it.) I asked the doctor how he did it. He said he used to focus either on the feeling of air around his nostrils or on his discomfort when sitting on a hard rock and meditating for 13 hours a day. Then we drifted into ayahuasca territory and a brief exploration of the Amazonian plant mixture that can induce altered states of consciousness. We talked about heaven, reincarnation, the after life, and nirvana. I said I wanted to be myself, playing tennis up in heaven. Mark said that judging from experiences described in certain books, it is possible. I need to remind him to give me the list.

(Now she has turned on the AC and  is talking on the phone. The hot air was better; my neck is getting cold. )

I mentioned the lodge that we passed in the forest in Costa Rica. We looked it up; in the photos it looked like a resort while in person it was more of a shack. Then we took a virtual trip to the other retreats and came to the conclusion that it is a veritable industry. There is even a Trip Advisor-like guide. They all seem to have one thing in common: You will puke your brains out (not my words) before seeing God.

Mark and I were spelling it wrong. The patient in the bed next to me corrected us. He knew because his sister, sitting with him, said her son was moving to Costa Rica. The patient was a newbie. We both had two arms going. The sister told us her son, a firefighter, was retiring early so he could move to Costa Rica and build a house. She would get to visit once a year. Lucky her. Her brother was scheduled for a second bone marrow biopsy. He has Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia  and didn't know what to expect. 

I said a lot of weird things happened to me, and they figured out what to do. 

This made me think of my nurse Vytas, whom I miss very much. Wherever I was, he turned up. He would stand by my bed or plop down in my chair and call me Nervous Nellie. 

"They'll figure it out," he would say.

I told my neighbor patient that the first time was the hardest but then it got so routine that I don’t even think about it.  And with two arms it goes much more quickly than in the beginning when they used one. (Down from three hours to two or a little longer.)

“It’s all good except for the nurses,” I said. (I almost wrote, I quipped, but then I almost gagged.)

That Diane, I said, pointing to his sweet nurse, who had covered me with a warm blanket when I came in, “if you ask her for a blanket, she’ll give you a lump of coal."

“Or a block of ice,” Mark quipped back.

Because I fiished early, I walked over to the platelet donor side, looked at the row of them to check if any were immersed in something, and walked over to a woman with pretty white hair.

“Thank you for donating,” I said.

A nurse talking to the donor next to my person said to me, “I know you..”

I answered, “I’m a frequent flyer.”

He said, “You’re also a frequent thanker.”

“Well I don’t want to disturb them,” I said.

“This one is already disturbed,” he said, looking at the donor. She rolled her eyes.

I told the white haired woman about the anonymous donor who saved my life by going in  to donate for me the night I needed platelets so that I could get the tube for dialysis. It was the night that Diane sat in my room, crying, because she had taken Advil (or something like that) and could not donate.

The woman thanked me for the story. A Dana-Farer pharmacist, she said she would stop by and see me next time. I couldn't thank the anonymous donor, so when I'm up to it, I like to thank the donors sitting on the other side of the donor center from us ECP-ers.

On the way out, I stopped in the Healing Garden. It is so peaceful in there. But it didn't last long. A television crew came in to set up for a commercial. I had seen them before, rolling their equipment carts and cameras at a good clip along the corridor. I jumped back a little to get out of their path on my way to the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center.

When the music is not too loud, I am trying to make friends with the driver. She is on the phone (yes, while driving) scolding her son for being out with a friend when he is supposed to be at her mom's. She has two boys and wants a girl but had her tubes tied. I ask can it be reversed. She says no, she could get in vitro but it is too expensive. Between her and her boyfriend, there are three boys. She fantasizes about having a miracle baby girl. Her name will be Miracle. I think that talking to her is an advance over past rides when the craziness made me crazy. I give her a bag of chocolate chip cookies. 

Back at the ASJA conference,  I attended sessions on essay writing and how to write for the New York Times and attended a women’s magazine pitch slam.

I definitely have a lot of material.

This overlong blog post took me all the way home from around Framingham. The sun is going down. I am going to go into the house and put my legs up the wall.

No comments: