Monday, September 9, 2013

A Woman Walks Into A Doctor's Office.....

And it's all up hill from there.

Last Wednesday was chemotherapy day.  Let's all hope that subsequent treatment days are less long. Shorter. Please.

I arrived at the cancer center early and registered on the first floor, as always.  I was able to skip the lab, as my blood had been drawn the previous day in the angio radiology department.  That was a timesaver, right?  So straight upstairs to Dr. J's office I went for my appointment with him, scheduled for 12:45, and then I'd be off to the infusion center for a slow drip of unpotable potions and a well-needed nap.  Post should end there.

When I stepped into the waiting room, I immediately noticed that patients were stacked up like planes at O'Hare.  This did not bode well for any of us.  Clearly, there are way too many sick people in the world and, quite possibly, the entire staff was out to lunch! 

Not that I've seen them all or anything, but the waiting room I use at my cancer center looks...well, blah.  No windows.  Well, there's glass along two walls, but it's etched, so there is no view, nothing to look at. The walls are painted in Benjamin Moore 'You-look-like-shit-today-blue' and the furniture must have been a closeout from Overstock Waiting Rooms dot com.  You know, the stiff vinyl kind with wooden armrests - some in singles, some in loveseat size - lined up along the outer walls and then a row down the center of the room. They should have a sign on them that reads "If you cannot get comfortable sitting here, we we have a bed of nails in the back you're welcome to try."  Unattractive.

The 'space,' as they say on HGTV, has not seen a current magazine since it opened its brand new doors in 2011.  Still there today is the same copy of Martha Stewart Living (she does it best) and an even older issue of Popular Mechanics.  That's about it for reading material.  At the far end of the room, there is a table with a jigsaw puzzle in varying stages of completion.  Let me just offer this:  If  you find a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle in your doctor's waiting room, you're gonna want a snack.  Goldfish crackers, plate of brownies, 12-inch sub, something to hold you over.

Chuck arrived after parking the car (another great thing about having cancer is that no one lets you walk more than 20 feet) and a very long, convoluted walk from the parking garage.  He said, "Are you still waiting?"  Yes, dear.  He flipped through one of the magazines for a moment and then we got down to the business of people watching.  At one point, there were 13 people sharing our space.  Six of those were sleeping. 

Warning: Flashback ahead! 
When we were kids and had appointments with the dentist or doctor, our mother fell asleep in the waiting room! Every single time.  My older siblings always seemed amused by it.  I was completely mortified.  I would sit as far away from her as I could, occasionally peering over the top of my "Highlights for Children", hoping none of my "neighbors" had appointments with the same doctor at the same time.  Mom's head would fall forward, snap back, she'd make an adjustment, and down she'd go again.  Mortifying!

Back to my waiting room...Not all of these people were patients, of course.  When you have a serious illness, it is important to take someone with you to appointments so that that someone can nudge you awake, should you have to wait through your naptime.  For me, it's important because that certain someone keeps me from chit-chatting with strangers, which I do fairly often, or so I'm told.  "Whadya in for?"  Like that.

There was an elderly woman straight across the aisle from Chuck who was enjoying some very heavy REM sleep, we could tell.  She would slowly lean to one side, then waaay over to the other side, then waaay to the back, etc.  At one point, while attempting an unconscious forward roll, I thought Chuck was going to have to kick one of his size 13s into her chest just to keep her on the chair!

I think waiting rooms in cancer centers should be particularly lovely.  Warm colors on the walls, nice couches and comfy chairs, good looking magazine racks with lots of good shit to read.  Patients are there because our lives depend on it! Dress the place up for godssake!  I'm not a huge fan of televisions in waiting rooms, but this room needs something!  How 'bout a giant fish tank?  I'd be less pissy if I could stare at something like House Hunters International or look for Nemo.  Damn.  Especially once I've texted and tweeted everyone I know to tell them that I'm still waiting!

Shit, this is a long post....Well, too bad. It was a long day and somebody's gotta talk about it.

As previously stated, my appointment with the doc was at 12:45.  Infusion appointment 1:15.  Can you see where this is going?  At 1:45, my oncology nurse stepped into the waiting room to say that "Dr. J wants you to just go over to the infusion center unless you have any important questions."  Every question I think up is fucking important, wouldn't you agree?  Geez.  But I'll go.  I'm already 30 minutes late for THAT appointment anyway.

I bade farewell to the lady next to me - Chuck had his eyes closed for awhile - and off I went.  Oh, but first, "you need to sign some consent forms."  Well, that shouldn't take long, right?  Twenty minutes later, at 2:05, we were walking down the hall to Transylvania, which has it's own stylish waiting room.  With people waiting. 

By now, I'm famished.  Chuck went over to the hospital cafeteria to get me something to eat, and when he returned 20 minutes later he said, "You're still waiting?"  Slowly I turn, step by step, inch by inch......

At 2:40, just as I cracked open my plastic salad, one hour and twenty-five minutes past appointment time, I was taken back to my room.  Then, more waiting.  First the banter with the nurses, most of whom remembered me (odd), and then the pre-meds.  Decadron, Zofran, Compazine, Benedryl, Ativan, and a bit of waiting.  When I'm good and fucked up, they start the blitz on cancer.  As I recall, it was 4:15 or so when the drip was let loose, and it took until 6:30 for it to finish.  While in my stupor, Chuck went home to throw a pork roast into the oven. 

As I was being unplugged from the poison, a nurse asked me if I would talk to another patient who had just had her first chemo treatment (very thin veins) and was debating about getting a port-a-cath.  Sure, I love to talk to my neighbors, remember?!  A lovely woman and her attentive daughter were brought into my room, and I think I laid out a pretty convincing story on why she should opt for the port.  Besides being so much better than repeated vein stabbing, it also serves as a microchip like you'd have in your dog.  When chemo-brain kicks in (and it will,) anyone can scan it and return you to the waiting room where you belong!
Selfie of healing microchip placement.
No more boob shots for you, Thom.


  1. Wait, are you serious? Is there a microchip inside of you? Can I get that for my kids yet?
    I think Katie Couric needs to hear this story. I highly doubt this is the cancer center her sister envisioned! I'm serious, I'm tweeting this to Katie.

  2. Honestly, will you PLEASE WRITE A BOOK!!!!! Joan

  3. Wish I knew how to Tweet that way I could send it to Katie Couric too!!! Joan

  4. I think about Mom falling asleep in waiting rooms all the time...Now that I tend to do the same thing..You have the best sense of humor...I love you

  5. Once again, I'm in stitches. I hate that you had to wait, but at least you got some good blog material out of it! Plastic salad... HA! xoxox love ya

  6. So glad to know what is going on with our east coast darling; keep up the hilarious writing.....we were in Vermont this month and ALWAYS have great laughs over the Souder visits. Can't wait til you can come again; we promise to invite you in summer instead of crazy cold fall.

  7. I'm also surprised the waiting room isn't nicer (although not so surprised about the wait). Don't they have snacks and drinks there for you all? And not getting to see Dr. J really stinks. I hope you have gotten to ask him your questions. And also, I too LOVE to chat with people in the waiting room (love "what are you in for" haha) my husband is always trying to get me to "mind my own business"... It's just not my style. :) Agree with Caroline... Katie oughta get some fresh magazine up in there at least!

  8. Hey Girl, you are just tooo funny! I hope you will write a book from this experience; you certainly have the gift.

    By the way, there is a topical prescription cream Emla that reduces the pain of the needle, also have heard that you can use Preperation H -------not sure about this? The cream is applied about an hour before accessing the port, but in your case that could be anytime. Cara used to use the Emla, but now it is Old Hat to her. YIKES, to think that you have to go thru this; just know that we LOVE YOU! Judi

  9. It is written somewhere that humor is a great source of medication. LOL over this recent description, which could qualify for a mini series human interest in the local newspapers. For the rest of us, forewarned is forearmed. We'd bring a fully-loaded iPad.

  10. You better call Susan G Komen about the waiting room - I think their mission is to make cancer glamorous and pretty - right!?
    I look forward to following you. Stay well! Sarah Sheehy

  11. Kate, I don't have words for what you go through, but I love the way you share it with us. Thanks for that.