Two years ago this week I began chemotherapy, and this morning I had my sixth post-treatment checkup with Dr. Pearl. My exam and test results were so encouraging that we were both smiling, happy, laughing. We have done an excellent job.
I’m always anxious in the weeks leading up to each visit. First, about a week before my appointment, I must go in for my blood test. I have routines for this ten-minute non-event — small rituals, really — that I’m sure will make everything all right. They include predicting how low the number will go (this time I decided on 12, and I was spot on). Then I wait. Sometimes Fairy Godmother Nurse Sylvia has a chance to call me with the results before my appointment, sometimes not.
When the day arrives — always a Thursday — there are more routines and rituals. Leave at a certain time, wear my good-luck earrings, listen to happy music in the car, park in my favorite spot at the Cancer Center. If I practice this magic, then all will be well. Moment by moment, I settle in. Breathe deeply, relax while the blood pressure is being taken, get comfortable while I wait for Dr. Pearl.
All I am doing is preparing myself. I must be prepared. No matter how much time passes, no matter how well I feel or how good my blood test is, I must be prepared. I know the percentages for my case. I know what all the chances are, and what the time frame is, too. I’m not watching the calendar, but I’m aware of it. I understand my odds, and in order to thwart them, I must be prepared, and I must practice these small bits of magic.
What Dr. Pearl does is practice his own art. He is, I think, spectacularly capable of creating the treatment plan that will, along with my participation, make me healthy. I see him only every few months, but each time I do, I’m reminded of just how blessed I am to be in his care. His art and my magic are a powerful combination.
When the appointment is over, when he has congratulated me, and I have thanked him, I take my time getting dressed. I need time; I have time. I make my next appointment, and it will be in the future, and the nurse smiles, because I know she knows that I am thinking, “Wow, the future.”
The final ritual in this cycle isn’t magic, but it’s necessary. I go to my car, get in and close the door, and have a little cry. Then I give myself a pat on the back, and go forward.