Greetings from CancerLand: Six Month Check-up

Alysa Cummings
Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: December 28, 2008

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My six month check-up is almost over. And so far it’s been business as usual. I’ve been weighed and measured. A nurse has checked my blood pressure. We’ve been through the “are-there-any-lumps-bumps-or-bruises” routine. (Classic cancer exam questions. Asked and answered. Check). The doctor has also finished his dance of the fingertips across the lymph nodes on my neck. A six month check-up means getting stuck for blood, means warm hands pressing down, means poking around, means an all out search up and down, for signs of “the enemy” above or below the waist. My six month check-up is almost over. Now maybe my heart can stop its panicky racing and slow down, maybe sound somewhat closer to normal. Not that there’s anything normal about being treated by an oncologist. I’m nervous for days beforehand. I’m jumpy once I step off the elevator on the fourth floor of the hospital. So right about now I ‘m ready to exhale already. I want to get dressed. I want to be somewhere else. (anywhere else, to tell you the truth). My six month check-up is almost over. The oncologist washes his hands at the sink, his back to me as I sit on the examining table holding the edges of the salmon colored gown together over my bare chest. I hear the doctor’s voice over the splashing sounds of the water as he soaps up, Everything looks good, he says, reaching for a paper towel. In fact, your blood counts are high enough for you to get chemo today. And with that one simple sentence I am a survivor sucked back in time, from this reality into another, from here and now back to there and then, to this same room, this same scene years and years and years ago, when a baby blue barcalounger in the Chemo Lounge down the hall was in fact the next stop after the check-up. A primal sound, a crude noise sounding a bit like nooooooo chokes its way out of my throat. The onco-doc smiles at the onco-joke he’s just played on me.



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