Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I think I'm moving but I go nowhere
Yeah, I know that everyone gets scared
But I've become what I can't be, oh
Stop and stare
You start to wonder why you're 'here' not 'there'
And you'd give anything to get what's fair
But fair ain't what you really need
Oh, can you see what I see?
“Stop and Stare” by One Republic

I was thinking about what to include in this chapter of my story, and I had the sense that it was going to have a mainly melancholic tone. However, I woke up this morning and listened to one of my favorite spiritual leaders, Joel Osteen, on TV. His message for today was titled “Be Glad Continually” and it was exactly what I needed to hear during this time of my life. His message can be summed up when he says, “Don’t be determined to never have problems, but be determined to always have joy in the midst of all your problems.” Basically, he calls on us to always have a smile on our faces despite what we might be going through in life; the smile that reflects that even when we feel that we have no control of our own lives, we still know that God is in control! After listening to that, I want to somehow make this chapter “upbeat”, and try to make at least a couple of my readers laugh or smile by the end of it. I hope I am successful, so here it goes-chapter 3…

As I was getting ready to leave the Florida ER, Dr. Comfort gave me prescriptions for the medicines I would need until I made it home to Arizona. That basically included a steroid to keep my facial swelling under control so I don’t unintentionally scare any innocent bystanders by having another “puff face” episode. I also got Plavix (a blood thinner) for the suspected thrombus on my neck. The intern, Dr. Blessing, walked with me as I was leaving the ER. At this point, her eyes were visibly red from all the crying she had done as we heard the CT scan news. We stood outside. She hugged me goodbye, now crying even more, and gave me her phone number to call her if I needed anything. The funny thing is that anyone seeing the two of us then would have thought that she was the one who was just diagnosed with a mass, and I was the one comforting her. Poor thing kept apologizing for breaking down like that, and telling me how strong I was for keeping it together. I wish I could have told her two things. First, I just wanted to make her understand that apologizing for something like this was not only silly, but it was a crime! She was apologizing for being compassionate, for being supportive, and for feeling sad that such a monster was growing in me. No one should have to apologize for being that humane, but I did not have the strength to tell her that at the time. All I could do then was hug her back, and say “thank you!” Second, the truth is that I am good at faking being in control of my emotions in public; it is really like a kind of art. Proof of that is that I had only shed a few tears in the ER, which I quickly put under control, but as soon as I made it to my car and I was alone, I broke down crying. It was little tears at first of “oh my God, is this really happening to me?!”, but the flood gates opened wide when I finally made it to the loneliness of my apartment!

Except there was a lot that needed to be done, and I obviously could not do any of it if my hands remained occupied with the box of tissues! So, with tears under control, first thing I did was call my brother in Atlanta; I decided it would be easier to start with him. Plus, I wanted to arrange for my flight home to have a layover in Atlanta so I could see him. I made sure my voice was as calm as I could manage before I called him. He was shocked to say the least; I only talked a few minutes with him and we hung up, I could tell it was a lot of “fresh” news for him to handle. But he called me back a few minutes later, and started doing the brotherly thing, you know, comforting me, telling me not to worry and that everything will be just fine etc. etc. He later confessed that in between the two calls he had kicked a few walls and doors on his way to class! (This explains why he was much more composed during the second call ;) Next, I called my sister in Arizona after I booked my flight, explaining everything all over again. I told her to pick me up the next day from the airport, and to not mention ANYTHING to mom. It would be much easier to explain things to mom face to face.

After that, I realized staying in my apartment alone was out of the question. So, I gathered up my laptop and purse and went to a Panera Bread that was just down the road from my apartment. If I was going to stay sane, I needed to be around people---even if the people were complete strangers. Once there, I called the only true new friend I had made down in Florida, “Zero”, and asked her to meet me at Panera after work (there is a very funny story behind the nickname I chose for her, which I will not disclose here!) I also called my good friend, HRL, and asked her if she would meet with me after her shift ended because I really needed to be with someone. HRL told me she would meet me at Panera as soon as she could leave; she called me back less than 30 minutes later and told me that her attending allowed her to leave early and that she was on her way. I felt so relieved, I really did not want to spend that evening/night alone, and now the two people I could count on in Florida were going to be there for me when I needed them the most.

That night turned out to be a very fun one, which is ironic considering the circumstances. After I explained my current life crisis, Zero and HRL did what friends do—they started comforting me and offering their help. Zero offered to drive me to the airport the next morning, which I appreciated greatly considering I had to leave at 6AM! (She had also made me a “get well” card from scratch and colored it with crayons when she had run into me in the ER earlier that morning!) Zero left after dinner, and HRL said she would spend the night with me even though she had to be at work at 5AM! And in a typical HRL fashion, that night, I laughed more than I had in a long time. We were even making jokes about the possibilities of what this mysterious mass may be. Somehow we ended up watching “Patch Adams” after I had mentioned that I’ve never seen it; HRL of course thought that it would be the perfect end to a memorable night of ice cream eating and laughter. She actually drove all the way to her apartment and back to fetch the DVD just so we could watch it that night. We fell asleep halfway through the movie. I did not have the deepest of sleeps that night, but when I woke up around 4AM and glanced towards the other couch where HRL was sleeping (we had decided to just camp out in my living room), all I could feel was peace and gratitude that I had friends who cared.

When it was finally time to get off the couch and get ready for the airport, I had this sense of excitement and relief. I had made it through the night, and I will be home with my family in a few hours; I don’t know what else I was expecting, but I suppose the previous day’s news had rattled me a little more than I thought.

Zero was at my door right on time, all awake and smiling as if it was not only 6AM! During the short drive to the airport, I realized that I did not know if I would see my friend Zero again. I did not know what the future held, but I knew I would not be coming back to Florida anytime soon. I felt a little sad. I had grown to love this friend even though we had only met a few months ago; she had definitely proven to be a true friend-the kind that a person would like to keep for life. She dropped me off by the curbside, and we hugged each other goodbye.
I boarded my flight. Soon, the plane started to move, and I found myself silently saying a little prayer. “Dear God, please just get me to my family safely and without incident…please, don’t allow the little thrombus to dislodge and damage my beautiful brain!” Following that little plea I could feel all of my fears evaporating, or at least becoming temporarily suspended for the rest of the flight…

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,
knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:2-4


The life of B -- living with chronic cancer. said...

Nancy, Lovely,

Know I'm thinking about you and your fight. I 'hear' you when you say you're life is on hold... Just, take it a day at a time. You'll be back on track before you know it. Back in the medical field, kicking butt. :)

Sending you tons of Love,

Helpful Link, with tons of Hodgkin's Friends:

The life of B -- living with chronic cancer. said...


Just wanted to let you know I'm thinking of you, and sending my love to a fellow hodger.

Sending healing wishes, so you can get back to kickin' butt as a med student -- we need you out there.

love, love, love,