The bone scan is today. Kevin watches the girls while I go to the local hospital only five minutes away. The Ativan has settled down enough that I’m fine to drive if I wait about half an hour after I take it. I’m probably fine to drive right away, but it makes me feel a tad off-balance and I don’t want to risk it.
The walk from the parking lot into the entrance of the hospital is familiar. I did it over a dozen times when I was pregnant with the twins. I thought I had problems then, boy, didn’t I? Waddling along, back screaming in protest, muscles in my torso twisted like pretzels to accommodate two growing babies.
When we walked out of there with our two precious bundles, I remarked, “I’m so glad to be done with that place. I don’t want to go back there for a long, long time.”
I register and go to the nuclear medicine area. An older man calls me to the back. He explains that he’s going to inject radioactive dye into me. It will take about two hours to do whatever it’s going to do, and I’ll come back to have the bone scan done at that time. I should drink a lot of water and pee a lot to get it out of my system.
It’s very quiet in this area of the hospital. It’s odd after the hustle and bustle of the CT scan area at Toronto Western the day before, and even the busyness of the rest of Lakeridge.
He asks me some questions. “Do you have any pain?”
I mention my shoulder, even though Dr. Daria said it looks like muscle tension. I also tell him about spraining my back last year and breaking my tailbone in labor.
He’s very soothing. He’s so nonchalant that it feels like we’re just two friends having a chat about stuff, if friends were interested in verifying my date of birth and the pain level in my jaw on a scale of 1 to 10. It’s a good way to act, at least for me. Maybe other people wouldn’t like it, but I’m glad that I have a technician who is good for me.
He examines my veins. I hate having needles in my right arm. It’s a psychological thing, I think. I’m right-handed, and I don’t want to be injured on that side. However, no one can ever find good veins on my left side. I had to do a fasting glucose test when I was pregnant, and the woman gave me bruises on that side that lasted for two weeks.
“The right side is better,” I say. “But they put the CT scan IV in that side.”
“Is it tender?”
I shrug. I haven’t even looked at it since then. There’s some sticky stuff leftover from the tape. The hole is tiny. No bruising. It doesn’t hurt. “It’s fine.”
He gives me the injection. I don’t watch. Later, I look at it and still see only one hole. I guess he used the same egress as the CT scan IV. Strange.
“Come back at 1:10,” he tells me.
I go home, I have lunch with Morrigan, I wash some bottles, and I go back to the hospital. The parking fees are ridiculous; I’m not sure I save anything by leaving and coming back, but I’d rather do that than sit around in the food court for two hours.
I’m the only one in the nuclear medicine waiting room this time. The same technician comes out. He leads me through the strangely empty hallways into a room.
The bone scan machine has the same pallet to lay on that the CT scan does. The machine itself has two medical-looking box-things that I assume will rotate around me to take the scan. He doesn’t have me change out of my clothes, although he asks, “Are you wearing any metal?”
“Bra,” I said. “Just the hooks.” I’m still in my nursing bra. It’s more comfortable.
“That’s fine. Lie down.”
I comply, and he comes over with a long rectangle with Velcro on it. He folds it over so it loops. “Put your arms in here,” he instructs. When I do, it lays on my chest with my arms at my sides because the pallet isn’t wide enough to accommodate anything but my body.
“Are you Serbian?” he asks.
“No, my husband’s family is Polish. And a bit of Ukrainian.” I’m used to that question now; I never got it with my maiden name, but Polish people (and apparently Serbians, who also apparently have similar last names) recognize their own. It makes me wish I had a heritage like that. Just the question itself makes me feel like I’ve found family.
He brings me a blanket. “It’s cold in here. Are you claustrophobic?”
“No.” I think about mentioning taking an Ativan but decide against it. I feel like I’ve been talking too much about my panic attacks and medication lately.
“Keep your eyes closed anyway, at least for the first five minutes.”
The scan starts. I peek. The medical-looking box is inches from my face, moving slowly. I settle down and relax.
An angel appears at my shoulder. “Hey,” he relays.
“Hey,” I think at him.
I don’t see him, of course. I’m not having a visual or auditory hallucination. I just feel him there. He’s kind of tall and smiles a lot. He’s handsome, but not in a Chippendale’s kind of way. More of an I’m-an-angel-so-I-have-to-be way. Probably one of the uglier ones, truth be told. His wings are white, and I can’t really focus on what he’s wearing. A robe maybe. I don’t know.
“I’m here to get you through this,” the angel tells me.
“That’s good. I need someone here with me.”
When I was pregnant both times, I meditated by imagining walking along a beach. For those times, I called my spirit guide Mother Nature. She was quiet and stoic, and toward the end, I kept envisioning her face and body covered with branches and vines. I talked to her to help focus and calm myself in preparation for childbirth.
This guy seems fun and goofy. I will take fun and goofy over serious. I mean, talking to her while I meditated helped a lot, especially when I was having horrible pain from hemorrhoids. But I need a little lightness of spirit right now.
“We knew each other before,” he says. “You wanted me here for this.”
I feel safe, taken care of. I’m happy he’s here. I wish I could remember “before,” but I know that’s not how it works.
The machine is whirring. I open my eyes to find it’s moved past my face. There’s a monitor on the wall showing an outline of my skeleton, up to where it’s taken its readings. Some parts are glowing brighter, but I don’t know what it means. I don’t see the tumor in my jaw glowing, so I decide I’m not going to figure anything out by looking at it. There’s a countdown going: eight minutes left.
“What’s your name?” I ask the angel.
“Herman,” he says.
“No,” I say. “That can’t be your name. That’s not a very angelic name.”
“What’s a more angelic name?”
When I was a little girl, I had an imaginary friend. In my memories, this imaginary friend was very similar to Herman, complete with wings and ephemeral robe. One day while I was playing in my room (possibly during naptime; I did a lot of not napping during naptime), he was excited introduce me his friends. When I got older and realized how odd this was, I used to try to remember what his name was. I could never come up with it. I think it was something like Bijou, but not quite.
“Bijou is an angelic name,” I tell him.
“I’m not Bijou,” he says. “I’m Herman.”
The technician comes over. “I’m going to do two more scans, one of your head and shoulders, and one of your pelvic area. It’s a 3D scan, so the machine will go all the way around you.”
He brings over something to prop my knees up and another velcro’ed thing to keep my legs from falling off the table. “Comfortable?”
“You should probably close your eyes for the first part, too.”
I dutifully comply.
“Herman,” I say, “what about my blog? Should I leave this part out?”
“If you’re going to write about everything, you should write about everything.”
Maybe it’s the stress. Maybe it’s the Ativan. Maybe my writer brain has finally run away with me. Maybe the mental illness that some of my extended family suffer from has finally caught up with me. Maybe there really is an angel named Herman coming with me to all my medical procedures.
“Do I really have to call you Herman?”
I get the sense that he’s committing. That’s he’s going to be here through all of it. That it’s his job, that he takes this very seriously. That things are going to get pretty awful, but he’s not leaving me.
I should be upset by the revelation that things are going to get pretty awful, but instead, I’m comforted. I’m not alone, even when I feel like I’m alone.
The scan finishes. The technician tells me I can get up. “I need to check with the radiologist to make sure he doesn’t want anything else.” He leads me to a waiting room. I check Facebook on my phone for a little bit. He comes back. “That’s good. That’s all we need.”
Herman follows me out of the hospital and sits next to me in the passenger seat of the car. He is silent while I drive home. The appointment is over. He has nothing more to say.