“Wow,” the nurse said as she took the Sphygmomanometer off of my arm. “Why don’t you take a few deep breaths and see if we can get that number down.”
The number she was referring to was my blood pressure, and she was right, it was high. “Through the roof,” would have been a more accurate description. I knew it was going to be. Number one, I had just driven two hours from Greenville to Atlanta. And number two, I was about to get the results of my latest CT scan. The first measurement of the effect of the clinical trial.
This was probably my sixth CT scan of the year? Who knows, I lose track after a while. Let’s just call it more than five/less than ten. And they have all been bad! From the innocent looking interstitial edema at the bottom of my lungs in January, to the growth in the left lobe in July, to the bone spots that no one seems to be all that concerned about, if I’m getting a scan that means some bad news is right around the corner. And sure I had been feeling way better, but that hasn’t always been an indicator of success. I felt great this summer and boom- progression. I was flying blind, birdie, I was flying blind.
I took a few deep breaths as the nurse took my blood pressure again. “Think happy thoughts,” she said. It came down slightly, but it was going to be in the stratosphere until I got the news.
It was just Jaimie and I alone in the room. It felt like forever. I paced. She sat.
I don’t yet have the words to describe what it's like waiting for test results. It’s an odd combination of fear and paranoia and calm and impatience. And quiet. It’s a very quiet experience. Jaimie would ask me something and I’d answer in a whisper. Normal volume feels somehow disrespectful.
Your life is literally in the balance. And the weird thing is, you are the last one to know.
They knocked on the door and Edith, one of my Nurse Practitioners, entered. I took my seat next to Jaimie. She asked me how I’d been and, “Nervous, was all I could say. She laughed and opened the folder with the scan.
And for the first time in a year, the news was good. A 20% reduction of this growth in my lung. Stability everywhere else. There was a bone spot that they were unsure about, but all in all I was having a reaction consistent with a positive response to treatment. I took the news as I take all positive information- cautiously. She got me up on the examining table and listened to me breathe and checked my lymph nodes. I put my head down and started crying a little. “It’s just been a long time since we’ve gotten a good scan,” I said. Edith put her arm around me and rubbed my back. She was almost as happy as we were. “I’ve known you for years,” she said.
Those simple words touched something deep inside me. They were caring. Honest. True. I felt the weight of the time that I’ve been carrying this thing. Years. That we’ve been carrying this thing. What she said was so kind I couldn’t think of a way to respond.
We collected ourselves and headed downstairs for the infusion. Jaimie went to the bathroom to wash her eyes, and as we waited for the elevator I thought of the perfect response to what Edith said.
I should have said, "Let's make it decades."