I’m getting extremely cranky. It’s about cancer and it’s about control. I have none.
When I was in grammar school, the most envied position a student could achieve was hall monitor, aka patrol officer. I attained this honor in fourth grade, proudly wearing my canvas sash and a shiny badge for one well-earned, powerful week. I was stationed on the second floor stairway landing, monitoring students as they went up and down the stairs on the right, single-file, making sure they did not push or shove or open a meth lab. I was in charge, and it was beautiful.
Ten years ago, I had a colonoscopy, without medication, because I was afraid I’d croak on the table from an allergic reaction to the medicines (too convoluted in my mental process to explain) and I didn’t want to be groggy (tap dancing class afterward), and let’s face it, I wanted to be in control. The procedure was no picnic. It took me a long time to get over the feeling in my upper abdomen of air pressure (think overinflated tire, near bursting). That said, I tapped my heart out that evening, and also claimed bragging rights: three non-medicated childbirths and a colonoscopy. Recently, it was time to repeat the potentially life-saving test. There was no excuse to ignore my health. OK. I tried, several times, but I finally caved. Early detection and all that.
On the day of the scheduled test, queasy from drinking two bottles of a flavorless laxative measured into “lemonade”-flavored sports drink, I entered the medical office. Friends, if there’s one thing I want you to take away from this story, it’s never, ever drink 64 ounces of that lemonade-flavored sports drink. Ever. It is the most disgusting thing in the world.
The nurse came over to start an IV.
“Not sure I need this,” I said, between waves of nausea. “Don’t know if I want the drugs.”
The doctor, a kind man, came over. When my questions reached glass-shattering levels and my blood pressure shot up to boot-camp proportions, we both decided a low dose of “something” might be smart.
I was wheeled across the hallway on a gurney.
Here’s what happened when I got the drugs: I stopped worrying. And I was funny – oh, Lordie, was I funny. I think. The doctor and nurses were really laughing. Well, maybe not at my jokes per se, which were: “Shrumfth priseted memfflebok stronnkers” and “Wharp duggilt flabshtagin?” But I was so funny. Yeah. Then I dozed a little, so I didn’t feel the amusement-park-level air blasts to my gut this time, and thus no one got hurt.
Afterward, someone pushed me back to my empty cubbyhole, and I thought, “Wow. That’s weird. There’s no bed there for me. Oh. I’m on the bed.” I lay there for a while, watching doctors and nurses walk around, passing by, doing different doctor and nurse things. And that’s when I noticed it. Although “out of control,” I’d never felt so peaceful, so loving, so completely one with the universe. Just beyond description.
The doctor stopped by, gave me good results, and soon, I was escorted to the waiting room. I gave a huge thumbs-up to the secretary, who smiled broadly (or possibly laughed at me – whatever. Spreading joy, that’s me) and returned the thumbs-up. Some other stuff probably happened that day, but I can’t remember. Friends, I never did drugs back in the 1960s, but man, I totally get it now. Oh, sorry. I’m trying to tell you about cancer and taking care of yourself. Remember, there’s never a good reason to ignore your health or reject really excellent drugs. As you can see, it’s possible that some of them remained permanently in my brain. Kids, don’t do drugs. No. Wait until you’re middle-aged, go to your gastroenterologist’s office, and ask for a colonoscopy. It’ll mean more to you if you wait.
But back to the serious business of cancer.
I hate cancer so much that just hearing “Tri for a Cure” sets my teeth on edge. Not because it isn’t a good cause. It’s super worthy and honorable, funding research, education, and support programs. But like my childhood patrol officer days, I like to be in charge.
I can make healthy life choices, but I can’t change my genetics. I can eat wholesome foods, but I still have to breathe the air. In my perfect world, there would be no “Tri-ing” for a cure. There would be a cure, and cancer, like smallpox, would be a thing of the past. So until that happens, I will sign on the dotted line – the one at the bottom of my checkbook – to give to this cause. Over that, I have control. And when someone invents an easy cure, I will make him or her patrol officer for a lifetime.
Shiny badge included.
P.S. Don’t drink that lemonade-flavored sports drink.