Shout Outs and Paranoia

I’ve been going to the cancer and hematology center every two weeks since early January. Obviously most patients seen there are dealing with serious life-altering health concerns. I am so impressed with the staff. They are primarily women, and from the clerks to the phlebotomists to the nurses, it is obvious they try to treat patients as people first and “sick” people second.

I pay attention to these things all the time: How does the staff interact with one another? How does the doctor regard her assistants? How does the front office staff relate to people on the phone—and what do they say when they hang up? (Those reactions can sometimes be enlightening.)

Since most people go there on a routine basis, the lab staff and nurses know the patients by name. They always seem to find something non-illness-related to discuss, even if it’s just the weather. But it’s frequently a compliment… “I like your hat!” “Cool shoes!” “That color looks great on you.” It’s just a wonderful humanizing touch. “Yeah, you may be sick, but I see you, and that’s not all you are.”

Of course, in the midst of a pandemic, there are temperature checks outside the entrance, travel questions, symptom questions, contact questions. The same checks inside the door. The same questions. If you pass, you are rewarded with a sticker on your left shoulder indicating your temperature of the day. Yet there are friendly eyes behind masks and face shields and reassuring voices asking how you are. We’ve come to appreciate these professionals even more these days. But we should have been paying better attention all along.

Paranoia. I’ve never been a fearful person. I’m a planner but not a worrier. Despite my best efforts at avoiding taking good care of myself, I’ve been a generally healthy person most of my life, not even one to get routine colds. When I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, I didn’t panic. I planned. I had no fear of dying from the surgery or the cancer itself, but I finalized my will. I mean, we should ALL have a will, shouldn’t we? The diagnosis was just the push I needed to get it done.

I think the thing I hate most about this COVID-19 stuff is the fear it’s instilling in me. Dr. A told me Friday that I now fall into the “immunocompromised patient” category. So at the height of a contagious virus, I’m more susceptible to infection. It’s why I can’t fly to Pittsburgh. Great.

I’m already thinking ahead to all the cleaning I’ll have to do—scrubbing down hotel rooms there and back on my three day drives. Sanitizing whatever place I end up renting for my three week stay. I have a box full of infection control supplies set aside for my trip. Planning. But now also worrying. This is foreign to me, and I don’t like it.

I had more blood work done today, and to my absolute surprise, my hemoglobin was still above 10! I was really shocked as it’s now been a month since my last Aranesp shot. Color me delighted.

Next Friday I will meet the new-to-me hematologist. That ought to be interesting. I’ll see if I can keep my disdain in check. (Wish me luck.) I know it’s unlikely to happen this quickly, but I’m hoping I get the green light to go to Pittsburgh, and I’ll be on my way by next Friday. Would it surprise you to know that I’ve cleaned out my car, had it serviced, and I’m 95% packed for the trip?

Planning.

Hemoglobin: 10.4

Signs outside the cancer center today

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