Friday, June 23, 2017

More views from the 4th floor

Dom is eating cheese.
Ya'll may think this is no big deal, but cheese is everything. Cheese is what we do on those days that we're home working on our jobs and projects and we need some quick, yummy food. We love the cheese. When he asked for the cheese, it was like a piece of home for me. It was the first non-hospital food he ate in a week.

It has been full throttle since our visit to the ER a week ago yesterday. But now, we're between chemo treatments, and he seems to have stabilized, and he's eating. Not just the cheese or the beige hospital food either. He has had watermelon every day since Tuesday. Every meal. Every day. Watermelon. Carolyn, who comes by to take his meal orders heard him say he has a craving for watermelon, and now it's a thing. I think he's pregnant.

We have a bouncy, chatty nurse today who has explained some of the secrets of the hallway. Every room has a board outside with sliding pieces of plastic that slide  to reveal options to communicate the patients' needs. It reminds me of a child's toy to learn reading, except there would be a picture  of a dog that you slide to reveal the word dog. Options include: neutropenic, or isolation, or fall precautions, or no visitors, or nothing by mouth, or leave door open.  My favorite: Quiet Time Healing Time. Some doors have an extra new agey looking paper sign that says the same thing, quiet time, healing time, all swirly letters and fancy and I think someone's passing a peace pipe in the photo.

Some of these are very curious to us. Why must the door be left open? Why must there be isolation? Why does one room have to leave the door open, but there's also a huge red stop sign on the floor as you exit that says wash your hands when you leave. When you leave. There is something in that room that must be washed off hands before leaving, but the door must be left open. Curious.

I wondered if any of those would apply to Dom. I'd already covered the fall precautions, because who slid that one open? Were those signs in our future? Would there be a big red stop sign at our door? We hope not. Turns out the isolation and the stop signs signify something other than and in addition to the cancer, and thankyouverymuchcancerisenough.

Every room has a computer on a stand. The hall way is also littered with computers on rolling stands. If any of you are Whovians, you'll know what I mean when I say I sometimes feel like I am in the Library. They look like one eyed robots on wheels. I glance at the screens when the nurses are signed on. When they're not poking or prodding or pill pushing, they're looking at spreadsheets of endless numbers. Everything is measured. Everything. And timing is everything. 3 am is the time to draw blood. Taking their cues from bats, I suppose.

Today, I did a load of laundry. In my new community apartment. Did I tell you I did some yoga the other day? I never see anyone in the family room, which consists of a living room, kitchen and dining room. I use these terms very loosely. I laid out my yogitoes in the dining room adjacent to the kitchen and began my practice. In came someone for a popsicle.  I tucked myself a little more out of the way. In came someone else. And someone else. And someone else. So many things were suddenly needed in the kitchen. Breathe in. Breathe out. I haven't seen anyone since, and I've spent some time in there.

Yesterday was a particularly difficult day. It was like we made it through the first gauntlet, and Dom felt better, so I could lose it. I have to move the car every day. I'm not 100% sure why, but I walk down to the main Oncology nurse's station and get a pass. I go down two floors to the bridge and insert my parking ticket, and then my pass. Then I get my ticket back, go to my car, exit, make two lefts down one way streets, pull into the garage, get a new ticket and park in my spot again. It's really rather ludicrous and I feel silly.  I've decided the purpose of this venture is to get a new bubbly water to stash in the fridge. I have a case in the back of the car.  I'd feel pretty ridiculous toting a Costco case of bubbly water through a hospital, so every day, I grab a bottle or two. Dom likes his bubbles.

The tears would not stop yesterday. I just rolled with it. It's in the manual. Page one. Roll with it.
Coming back from my car, I noticed a miniature pony in the parking lot. A serious real, live miniature pony. If the pony was a girl, I'm sure it would have been a cheer leader with heart shaped lips and perfect posture.  I wanted so very badly to press my face into her neck. But I knew she was headed to a children's wing, and I knew that's where she belonged, so I kept walking. Inside, two women had a pair of gorgeous dogs on leashes with their little important vests. Again, I wanted to stop them and bury my face in theirs. And again, I stopped myself.

We don't get animal therapy. We get music therapy. When I returned from my bubbly reconnaissance mission this afternoon, there was a guitar and an amplifier outside our door. I stepped inside to a fresh faced young woman who offers music therapy to patients. We talked to her for a little while, and even if she never sings for us, she encouraged us to think about music. To be honest, I'd rather play with some legoes and snuggle a pony, but I'm grateful this hospital thinks of all the things.

Our days are broken up with walks and meals and doctor and nurse visits and we turn on the television every so often and realize it's still garbage and turn it off and go back to reading. We walk several times a day. I feel like a freshman in high school next to Dom with his full head of glorious hair that screams out "hey, we're the new kids." He will lose it. But for now, it's still there, unlike most of the the others we pass. It's awkward. We're in this together, all of us here in the Oncology unit, but we don't know each other, and the thing we share is bigger than we want to handle. I said hello to the plump opera singer today and she stopped for a moment to say hello back. She, in her scrubs and baldness looked more alive than her companion. Her hair is going to grow back and she is going into remission and she is going to live life to the fullest. I just know it. Dom and the skinny man nod at each other and kind of mumble a dude hey or some such.

Sometimes we pass that awkward person. The one visiting a relative, so they're not quite as dug deep in as I am. They're still processing their own business, loitering in the hall because the rest of their family is still visiting but they are just done. They say to Dom "hang in there" all sad faced and weird; like some hybrid football slap and pity face. It's okay. Cancer is awkward. To say the least.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Dom is a hit on the ward. The nurses poke their heads in and express their sadness that they did not get assigned to him that day. I guess some people resist the treatments, and naturally some are surly. But Dom is seeking wellness. He doesn't complain. He is charming and compliant. He is thankful and grateful to be here. As am I.


robertjm said...

And what kind of cheese was it? Something safe like a mild American, or daring like a Stilton, Camembert or Limburger?

Cassandra said...

It was a nutty, sharp cheddar from Trader Joe's. Unexpected Cheddar. It's delicious. He was even asking if he could eat hot sauce, so I guess when we're out of the nausea woods, we're out.
I also won't be eating an Bries or soft cheese for some time. Those are out.

Elena said...

Cass! I am very familiar with the amazing kinds of peeps who bring animals to hospitals! They would love to give you the time for a neck press. pet, lick, snuggle. BTW They are all miniature horses, not ponies (they are another thing. Just so you know the lingo when you stop for some love!

Cassandra said...

Thank you for saying so Elena! I'll make sure I don't keep walking next time. And I'll be sure and remember it's a horse. Pony just sounds so breezy. xoxo

Unknown said...

Cass I know this is second to everything you two are dealing with, but MY GOD you can write. I'm in tears for the 2nd time today reading your words. So much love to you both. Ellie

Cassandra said...

Oh, thank you Ellie. I hope they're helping people.Everyone's love is definitely helping us. xoxo