9. Musings on boob-fillings, party balloons and other distractions...
The PET scan was scheduled for 7:30 am, which meant getting up at 5:50 am because you need to be there 1/2 hour ahead of time and even at that ungodly hour, traffic is traffic.
Now a PET scan, it stands for Positron Emission Tomography, is like an MRI on meth. It sees everything in your body. If there are cancer cells anywhere, this puppy will sniff them out. It also requires radioactive elements be injected into your blood stream, and you get to drink flavored barium before they shove you into the giant metal donut, so, ya know, just another fun day in the basement of UCLA.
As I am not allowed to stay for the actual insertion (insert your own joker here) I am sent on an errand. The previous night we had worked at a Cancer Research Fundraiser (A Cause for Entertainment) and after eight hours on our feet, we were sent home with a massive balloon bouquet. Seemed like a waste to toss them, so I am told to find a place in the hospital where these mylar orbs can cheer up patients.
Walking from the parking structure, seven feet of helium filled bags in hand, people smiled.
“Boy or girl?” they asked.
“Actually, it’s a tumor!” I wanted to reply.
It’s early. I have not had near enough coffee. I just smile.
I find a Patient Happiness Office (I think that’s what it was called) and they are happy to take the ornaments off the hands of the un-showered middle-aged man who’s explanation of where the balloons came from goes on way too long.
And as a thank you, give me a free parking pass.
And the feeling that comes over me is a profound sense of satisfaction. What I did was really nothing, but given my normal duties are to sit and wait and say cheerful or funny things to keep my wife’s spirits up, this was the best hospital day I had had in forever.
I had done something. I had made someone happy. I had kept balloons out of the landfill for an extra day or so, given a smile to a stranger, and made 12 dollars (the cost of parking) all in one fell swoop.
I was useful. There was physical labor involved and I was useful. And for a moment, I didn’t have to think about how a PET scan can find any cancers hiding in my wife’s body, and how much I need there to not be any, because DAMN IT, we’ve done the surgery, chemo is on the horizon, can’t we just catch a break?!
Later, when the Doctor lets me push in the plunger on the syringe to fill up the spacers in my wife’s chest, I get the same euphoric rush. I did something.
“Look at me, I’m a Doctor!” I joke, getting an actual laugh from the plastic surgeon. (No small feet I might add.) It required a bit of hand strength, frankly, but we got those CCs where they were supposed to be.
I stuck the landing. I helped.
Guys, you will often feel useless on this particular journey.
And finding ways to be useful is sometimes tricky, if not impossible.
So take the victories where you can find them.
Not so much for her, but for you.