Morrigan, our beautiful, lovely three-year-old, is having lots of issues lately. It seems to be a week over week thing, sometimes day over day. She’s got a cold this week, so she’s been a handful.
I try not to write anything on social media that would make her feel bad. Especially the older she gets, I want to be respectful of her as a person. There’s that #MyChildIsCryingBecause hashtag, which I have conflicting feelings about.
On the one hand, it’s nice to bond with other parents, to see that life isn’t all Instagram filters and flowers. On the other hand, she’s a person, and would I be writing on a #MyHusbandIsMadBecause hashtag? No, probably not, not since I’m planning on staying married to him. We all have our moments of being upset about things that probably make no sense to other people–or even an hour later, myself included. I’ve probably written things in this blog that make people go, “Um…”
All that to say that I haven’t written very much about issues with other people, including Morrigan, because I’m trying to be respectful. Sometimes whatever I have to say comes out, and I’m not going to apologize for it. But I try to keep it contained because this blog is open to the world.
We are, however, taking Morrigan to see a child psychologist on Tuesday. It’s part of the Hearth Place’s offering, and the counselor does everything through play. I certainly hope Morrigan likes her, because it could go either way. Right now, she’s decided she doesn’t like Grandma and Grandpa, especially Grandma, which is making things very difficult around the house.
My theory is that she’s centering all of her anger about this tumult on Grandma. She did the same thing when Aunt Laura came to stay with us soon after the babies were born. And Morrigan is three, so it’s not filtered. There’s screaming when Grandma smiles at her. There’s refusing to take things Grandma offers her–like, um, cookies?? There’s throwing a fit when Grandma tries to play with her.
And that’s the tip of the iceberg; Morrigan is also a handful with all of us, but everything that could possibly happen is happening with Grandma. It means, first of all, we’re down an adult who can take care of her. And second of all, the fun things Grandma and Grandpa were going to do with her (swimming, going to the park, making cookies) don’t get to happen.
So Morrigan is going through all this, and the other day, Daddy, she, and I are in the living room. She’s saying some things, basically telling us, unprompted, why she’s upset. Normal for a three-year-old.
“Mommom is sick. Mommom has lots of owies. Mommom has a big, red owie.” My port incision. “Mommom is going to leave.”
I have this tendency right now to see everything as a sign. Oh, no, it’s a three-year-old’s prophecy. She knows somehow that I’m going to die.
My panic is spiraling. Kevin shakes his head at me. I take a deep breath.
Not everything that hurts in my body is the cancer. And not everything that proceeds from the mouth of babes is a prophetic statement.
“It’s her own fears.” Kevin knows me. “She’s scared.”
I pull myself together. I bring her into my lap. “Mommom is not going anywhere.” Besides, I spent an hour a month ago howling on the floor, saying that very thing to her. She might not have cried at the time, but she was processing it. “I might have to go to the hospital for a while, but I will always come back. Twice a week, I leave the house, and then I come back. Right?”
Morrigan ponders. “Right.”
Friday is my weekly appointment. I decide I want my dad to take me. The previous week, I told Kevin he didn’t need to come, that he could drop me off and pick me up because the whole thing takes one-and-a-half to two hours. But this is the first time they’re going to use my port to take blood, so I decide I want my own daddy, who has been through this before.
I sign into the computer, but then I get all confused as to what I’m supposed to do. They told me to go downstairs, but usually I wait for the lab to call me (on the main floor) to have blood work done. The waiting room is buzzing with people all thirty years my senior. I finally find a volunteer, who takes me through the crowd of people to the lab door.
“Here you go.” The lab tech hands me empty vials in a plastic bag. “Go downstairs and put it in the basket.”
I do that. The waiting room is nicer, quieter. I’m nervous about the big needle they supposedly use. I’ve put lidocaine cream on the spot, so it shouldn’t hurt too much, but I’m still not keen on this whole thing.
A journal is sitting on the table next to me. It has instructions on not removing it from the waiting room. I open it, and it has messages from people who have been through their own cancer roller coasters back through 2010. It’s a nice idea. It ends at 2015, and I wonder if I should bring an empty journal of my own for people to write in. I’ve gotten several in care packages, but I don’t really write stuff by hand anymore. Sometimes I use it for writing stuff, notes about stories, but that’s about it.
The nurse calls my name, and Dad and I go in. He stands over by the curtain.
She’s chatty. “Is this a new port?” she asks.
“Yes, I got it on Monday.”
“I wonder why they sent you down here rather than getting blood from your periphery.”
“It’s just that there’s a higher risk of infection, and I don’t know why they would do that if there’s no reason to send you down here. Usually they do it if there are complications with taking it from your arm.”
“Um, maybe I misunderstood?” I’m confused. “I think they told me to come down here. At least, I… Um… Maybe not. I’ll talk to Dr. Freedman.”
She’s readying everything on her cart. It’s a lot of stuff. Needles and mini-IV-looking lines and two things of saline plus a thing of anticoagulant for flushing out the port when I’m done. “If you had this done today and chemo tomorrow, then I could leave it in.”
Except, no, because the babies would grab it. Oh, Lord, would they ever grab it and yank. My toes curl just thinking about it.
“But I can’t leave it over the weekend because of the risk of infection.”
Can you say ‘risk of infection’ more?
She asks my story, and we talk about the babies and what a damn shame all this is. I imagine she’s heard it all, but she still shakes her head and seems angry on my behalf. A few minutes later, she gets all up in my chest area, and I avert my eyes. “Here we go, little poke.”
I let out a breath and I feel it go in. It is definitely a poke, maybe about the same pain as getting my arm done. But I get nervous when I get my arm done. They make you hold it out straight, and I’m afraid I’m going to start shaking or my arm is going to cramp and spasm, and I’m going to have a needle through my biceps. The most ridiculous part is that a needle through my biceps doesn’t creep me out, it’s the jerking part itself, so I’m always deer-in-the-headlights when they’re poking me in the “periphery.”
The blood comes out easily. I don’t feel it. She flushes the thing, and my mouth tastes weird as the saline goes in. She pulls everything away and puts a gauze over it. Slaps a piece of tape.
I thank her. I always thank the people who do medical procedures. I’m sure some of them think it’s the damned weirdest thing they’ve ever heard, or maybe that it’s a reflex. I won’t lie, it’s partly reflex, but it’s partly because they’re doing a job for the purpose of making me better, and I do want to thank them for that. I can’t imagine being a blood technician is a stress-free job. In fact, I can imagine that it’s really rather stressful, perhaps being regarded like the janitors of the medical world.
Fuck that, blood technicians. You do a good job. You’re not the janitors. I made that up myself, so I apologize if it’s just me and not the asshole doctors.
Dad and I take the elevator upstairs. He has my bag of blood in his hands, so I take it and mentally elbow my way through the crowded waiting room. Most people are sitting, but almost every chair is full, and it’s very loud in there, even though it’s not. That’s just me, in crowds, unable to hear myself think.
As I’m approaching the door, I start to feel dizzy. Oh, no, not again.
I’ve fainted before after getting a shot. It was a vaccine for Hepatitis A, I believe, and the second one at that, for when I was going on one of my mission trips. It was routine otherwise; I barely felt that one go in because the nurse was so good. I got up, I walked out of the room, I started to feel the world closing in, and I woke up with my doctor standing a couple inches from my face peering in my eyes.
That was the first time.
It’s not every time, which makes it even more annoying. Nine times out of ten, I don’t get dizzy at all. Maybe I just sit in the chair long enough, or maybe I’ve eaten enough. Today, I’ve not hardly eaten.
When I get to the lab room, I sit myself in their chair. But the lab woman is efficient and sweeps the blood vials from my hands. I have no choice–hahaha, yeah, like I couldn’t have just said, “I’m feeling dizzy?”–but to stand up and stagger into the waiting room.
There are two chairs a few feet away. As I move toward it, an old couple comes along and swoops into it.
Shit. I’m really feeling bad now.
I take a couple more steps. There’s another set. Another old couple chair-blocks me.
There’s two more all the way across the waiting room. They’re the last ones left. If I don’t get to them, I’ll be lying down on the floor, possibly involuntarily.
“I’m not feeling well,” I say as I collapse in. “This happens. It’s normal.” Or, at least, I think I tell my dad that. I’m focusing on forcing my body not to do whatever the hell it thinks it’s doing.
I’ve had two sips of a smoothie my mother made me, but it’s threatening to come back up.
“I need the garbage can.”
Dad rushes to get it. I do everything I can not to heave until he brings it over. There are old people all around me, and they’re pointedly not looking at me.
The garbage can is here. I heave. Nothing comes up, thankfully. It happens again. And again. And–k, this is getting old. One last time, and I can feel it lifting. The dizziness isn’t so bad.
Nobody has noticed–no nursing staff, not the reception area that’s right in front of me. Maybe if I’d actually fallen on the floor, someone might have come rushing over, but otherwise, it is busy and people have, apparently, other things to do.
As it abates, I ask Dad to go get me a Tim Horton’s coffee and breakfast sandwich. It’s probably because I didn’t eat anything before I had blood drawn. And it was “a lot of” trauma, at least more than my body could handle without sustenance in the morning. The flushing and the anti-coagulant and all that.
We got done around 10 a.m. with the blood work, and they don’t call me until 11. Dad’s back with the coffee well before that. We talk about it–he remembers when I fainted before. I try not to be embarrassed, but I am. It’s not that I think I should be able to control it, but I have things to do, like sit in the waiting room and not throw up in a garbage can. And the poor blood technicians are busy, so asking to sit in a chair for a few extra minutes just in case seems like an imposition.
Julie, Dr. Freedman’s nurse, calls me in. I explain to her about what happened, and she says it’s normal. I should eat something before a blood draw. She’ll make a note in my file.
Dr. Freedman comes in, and I have a list of things. One of them is a doctor’s note for yoga at the Hearth Place. Another is whether I’m supposed to go get the blood from my arm or from my port.
She’s very steady, but since I’ve met her a couple times now, I’m starting to be able to read her. She’s really annoyed. “I once had a patient they sent up and downstairs three times. No lie, three times. The blood draw people see a port, and they send you downstairs to have blood drawn.”
I decide to let the poor blood technicians take the fall this time. I honestly have no idea who told me that I needed to get the blood through the port–I thought it was Dr. Freedman, but clearly it wasn’t.
“It’s honestly up to you, but there are lesser risks of complications through your veins.”
“I thought it was weird,” says Dad. “I never had it through my port.”
“If you want to do it through your port, that’s fine. I’ve had patients who just can’t do needles to their arms. But you’re fine to do it upstairs.”
Upstairs in my arm it is. Next week, I’ll hide my port.
I reluctantly bring up my fainting incident. She also assures me I shouldn’t be embarrassed.
“I had to take my husband’s stitches out once, and he fainted. So don’t worry about it. It’s just your body’s reaction. We know you’re tough–you’ve had three kids, after all.”
I laugh. Now I’m embarrassed about being embarrassed. How meta of me.
“Next time, tell them you’re a bit of a fainter. They’ll be happy to let you sit for a few minutes.”
Ugh. I guess. Fine, fine, fine. I will.