I never wear jewelry.
Who has the time for accessorizing when there’s so many other things to be dealt with? But today I look in the mirror and put in the fancy-dangly earrings I bought myself some months back. My outfit is on point, my makeup is perfection, I’ve styled my hair, and yes- I’m even putting on jewelry. Not just earrings but the necklace and bracelet to match.
You see even if I feel like the whole world could fall apart at any moment I can still look put together. In fact, it’s somewhat soothing to know I can still get dressed and accessorize and look normal. I can look like any other woman on the street going about her normal daily tasks. But today is not normal.
Today is scan day.
The anxiety that I’ve been pushing away for weeks has now bubbled over to the point I can’t contain it. Actually as survivors and caregivers we have nicknamed it “scanxiety.” As if giving it a cutesy name could take away some of it’s weight- some of it’s horror.
And I know that the two hour drive to the cancer center will be almost intolerable. My life could go either way at this point.
In the span of a few hours my world could get shattered. It all hinges on one tiny little scan that takes about 10 minutes to complete. Not even long enough to finish the hard boiled egg, string cheese, and salad lunch that I packed myself in preparation for a long day moving from one waiting room to another.
This is another thing I have learned how to control. I always pack a cooler. Whether it’s scan day, treatment day, or just labs day. I have learned from experience that food is scarce and time is short and if I expect to get a meal on these days I better just bring it myself. I can also make meals that make me feel good about myself- not the cheeseburgers or fries that are served in the cafeteria (assuming we even have the time to walk to the cafeteria). Those meals always leave me drained and hating myself. And so I’ve learned. And I’ve adapted.
I also have my “go-bag”. This is the bag that I haul to and from the car every morning and every evening because you just never know when you will get sent to the ER, or to an emergency scan, or get admitted to the hospital and have to stay the night. In my “go-bag” I have everything I need to keep my mind occupied during the countless hours of waiting. I have my ipad, my laptop, my book, my bullet journal, my headphones, a bag of every charger known to man, hand lotion, gum, some cash, and yes a wine opener (hey- you never know).
So I am prepared. I am no longer the scared one in the waiting room- eyes flitting around unable to concentrate on any one thing. I am now the wife camped out across three waiting room chairs, feet up, headphones on, munching on my healthy lunch, sipping on my packed diet coke (because for some unknown reason you can’t find a single diet coke over the entire campus- trust me I’ve looked).
I probably look bored. I probably look “at home”. I assure you I’m not. I’ve just learned. I’ve adapted.
And I wait.
And they finally come in and give us the good news that the scans are clear and the labs are good. And I know that now I have three months in which to catch my breath. Well maybe 2 1/2 before the scanxiety kicks in again. And this is how we live our lives. One scan at a time. One moment at a time.
At first it feels like too much. I know. I was there. But you will learn. You will adapt. You will persevere.
No one has the promise of tomorrow. No one. It just feels a little closer to us. The patients, the caregivers, the families. But it’s not.
So take a deep breath, put on your headphones and your sparkly earrings, and pull out the sandwich that you packed because you were prepared. You can do this day whatever it may be. Just like I can do mine. Take control of those things you can and try to let go of those that you can’t.