Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rhapsody of Small Moments

I had been looking forward to today, knowing I would see my oncologist after many months and after the bad experience with one of his colleagues in July. So imagine my shock and dismay when I checked my voicemail yesterday and heard confirmation of an appointment with…

Dr. Bully. Again.

I didn't rant or rave, I didn't call the hospital back claiming this was an outrage. I didn't fire off an angry letter or even post on this blog.

I just started crying.

I am not normally the crying type, at least not for such a small thing as a doctor's appointment. There is a time and place for tears - happy occasions, sad movies, private moments, life milestones. But I have rarely cried over medical matters. My attitude is they are what they are: deal with them and move forward.

But yesterday that attitude was conspicuously absent as I cried and cried. I called Warren and cried on his voicemail. I cried some more when Warren called me back to talk me gently through my options. He would talk, I would respond, and then I would cry again.

I hung up the phone and cried some more.

After about an hour of this, my tears subsided and I started to put together a plan of action. I called Central Scheduling and explained the problem, and got rescheduled to yet another date. The clerk at CS was reassuring and very supportive. I left a couple of phone messages asking for some guidance in navigating the minefield of doctor assignments. I then drove to the hospital to pick up a copy of my last labs, done three weeks ago, so I could see for myself what the key blood marker was doing.

This all took time and energy. Not so much physical energy but emotional energy. It is stunning how draining something like this can be. I spent two hours Sunday turning over my kitchen garden with a shovel and that was nothing compared to how tired I felt by the time I pulled into the parking lot of the hospital.

I was soggy (from the last of the tears), sad, and depleted. I felt bruised and roughed up all over again from July. Yes, I was taking control and yes, I was moving forward, but all the same I felt I was at the bottom of a deep swale.

Then I realized that the music coming out of the radio was George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue."

I love "Rhapsody in Blue." It is a piece that holds many memories for me, including long ago ones with Warren. "Rhapsody" never fails to lift my spirits.

I sat in my car for several minutes, just listening. The music washed over me, soothing the sorest spots in my heart. It uplifted me and gave me enough energy to get out of the car, walk to Medical Records, and pick up my lab results.

[Note for those who are wondering about the Russians in my blood: the marker number rose again, but this time very slightly, which is considered a "float." That's good news.]

Gershwin on the radio was a small moment of great reward in a moment when I needed one most of all.

As my afternoon rolled to an end and evening came on, a whole series of small moments were mine for the savoring. First the Gershwin, then the lab results. Warren coming home and holding me close for a long, quiet moment. A good dinner talking quietly. A phone call from my personal physician, the incredible and wonderful Dr. Pat, which buoyed my spirits and pointed the way to bridging the medical gap between now and when I see my oncologist again. A quick trip to the college library in the warm evening - the buzz of the students on the social floor, the hush on the quiet floor. The pleasure of finding the book I was looking for and more, the more being the young adult novel, Up A Road Slowly.

Up A Road Slowly is a coming-of-age novel about a young girl sent to live with an elderly aunt after her mother's death. It was the Newberry Award Book for 1967, which is when Jean Blakeslee, my 5th grade teacher, put a copy in my hands and said "I think you will enjoy this book, April." She was right.

She still is, 42 years later. I have not read Up A Road Slowly in many years, but I checked it out last night and am halfway through it already. The book has stood the test of time well.

By the time I fell asleep last night, I was tired but no longer drained, reflective but no longer sad. Many small moments had given me great reward throughout the evening and I felt centered again.

The idea of small moments of great reward comes from a note that Warren sent me many months ago about his hopes for our life together. He wrote, in part: I have been through many low points…I believe by now, you well know, I always try to make even the smallest moment of great reward. I have faith in myself and you have shown me the same in you.

Recognizing those small moments when they occur is an act of simple gratitude. It is appreciating that the random music spilling from the radio is "Rhapsody in Blue." It is sharing a laugh with my personal physician, who is also a personal friend, and valuing that she took part of her evening to call and reassure me. It is breathing a quiet "thank you" to a wise teacher of years past (one of many in my life) for placing a good book in my hands. It is savoring the taste of the zucchini bread we had late last night. It is cherishing Warren's smiling face as we sit down for breakfast every day.

I recently had one of my not infrequent conversations with myself, conducted out loud as I drove somewhere. Thinking about the concept of luck, I said, in the stillness of the car, "I don't need to be lucky, I need to be grateful."

The day awaits. I am grateful.


Sharon said...

Once again you've shown me how to appreciate the little things in life. I'm so sorry you had to endure the change of appointment once again. It is frustrating, to say the least, when you are not being "heard".

I'm glad things turned out much better at the end, but I'm so sorry for your anguish.

I wish I could come over with the rest of my chocolate cake and we could chat over some hot tea...

Sending hugs your way...

Christine said...

Oh April! I am so sorry to hear you cried so much. I wish I could take your tears away and make the sun shine for you everyday.

I love how you are thankful for the small things in life that most people do not even stop to take a moment to realize how neat it could be.

I am glad to hear you were able to obtain an appt with you regular oncologist. But sorry you had to reschedule. That's the pits.

I think I have a new book to read. ;)

April, keep those spirits lifted girl! I am determined to see those great spirits keep the Russians away!