It is infinitely easier to record miracles than to comprehend them, even if one is an eye witness. But it’s April – the season of lilacs and Easter – a time when history chronicles that some rather profound miracles occurred.
Last week we migrated south to Houston for further testing and CT scans at MD Anderson. Both Dr. Wolff and Dr. Jones wanted to gauge the efficacy of the current rounds of chemo. Needless to say, a lot is riding on numbers and results. We tried not to think about that until tomorrow, but tomorrow bore down upon us, and demanded to be thought about immediately. It can be stressful. A little like waiting for the foreman of a jury to return a verdict. Fortunately, I was able to convert my expletives into rhymed couplets, which diverted Dennis’ attention from angst to complete and utter chagrin.
MD Anderson is daunting to negotiate. It is a labyrinth of corridors, hallways and passageways that honeycomb this massive complex. There is a plethora of waiting rooms populated by those with varying degrees of illness, disfigurement, scars, staples and hair deprivation, not to mention the ubiquitous emesis basins strategically located and readily available should the need arise.
These open areas are also distinguished by something else – waiting room camaraderie. There is an easy affability among the brotherhood of affliction, comfortable and congenial. One begins to realize that the mystery of true beauty does not lie in cosmetics, dimensions or surgical enhancement. Recognizing that beauty is an acquired taste. In fact, my selections for most beautiful people are neither rich, famous nor notorious, which is why I’m not on the selection committee of People magazine.
We observed that not one patient was alone. Each was attended by one or more companions in compassion, as were we. It was both touching and inspiring. People placement – “body guards” – can cushion blows and radiate tender energy. It is the errand of angels. One’s well-being is greater than the sum of all the numbers and images. Those who are courageous may not be royal, but they are most assuredly regal.
Dennis spent a goodly portion of the first day getting labs drawn and guzzling dizzying quantities of contrast in preparation for the scans. His flavors of choice were chocolate and “very berry.” Yum. He downed those bad boys in record time, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, scratched his belly, belched, and swaggered toward the scan room. Actually, I made up that last part. In addition, the procedure also required a “wazoo wash” that discretion dictates is better left unblogged. Actually, you couldn’t make that last part up. However, in this instance, he was not given a choice of flavors. But the whole thing left him seeping and depleted.
Our appointment with Dr. Wolff was scheduled for Wednesday morning to review the results of the imaging and discuss options and possibilities. As we sat in the exam room awaiting the verdict, we were peaceful and serene. It was the most vital vital sign. We were acutely aware of the presence of a multitude of loved ones. We were not alone…we were swarmed. Thus, we expected good news. We had reason to believe.
Finally, Dr. Wei, Dr. Wolff’s associate, arrived to display the “before” and “after” pictures. He seemed pleased, and a little baffled. The scans showed “dramatic response” and “significant reduction” in the appearance of the nodules. This was plainly evident even to our untrained eyes. Then Dr. Wolff came in and declared that the results of the scan were compelling. He called Dennis a “subset of a subset,” and said the gemcitabene and 5FU had been quite effective. He reiterated that this was unusual.
Dennis and I were dazed, amazed, but not surprised. We know how potent chemo can be. But we also recognize that charity, faith, prayers and hope are the ultimate healing agents. It was easy to gauge their power. We saw the images. Undeniable.
When Dr. Jones received a copy of the scans, she also noted that these results were out of the ordinary. We savored the moment.
We are not removing the armor, nor declaring a cease fire. We are still in attack mode. We plan to carry on with this same regimen. And we will continue to center our lives on joy, not adversity.
The bridge over troubled water has become a paved highway. So many traveling companions have run ahead to carve a path and ease our journey.
We celebrate Easter, as is our custom, with contemplation amid episodes of grandchildren exploding with effervescence, like cans of soda pop that are opened right after shaking. And we will continue our constant supplication amid microbursts of mini prayers.
It has taken a kingdom, with a willful disregard for the laws of gravity, to hold us up, and enable us to live our lives from miracle to miracle. But then, it is the season.