Severe chest pain.
No kidding, there I was in patient mode, sitting on the butcher paper in the ER with an unfinished professional lifetime-plus of bedside nursing behind me. Years and months and days of dutifully attending the waylays, wounds and afflictions of everything from hangnails to heart failure. Now it was my turn.
I wish I could tell you without mixing and abusing too many metaphors, that I hit the bull running, took the ground by the horns, leapt into the music and faced the breach, but it was more like being unceremoniously tapped on the shoulder by the ghost of a mechanical hand:
“You have a mass on your lung.”
With an inspired aplomb that only a New Englander would appreciate, I said: “I’m assuming you don’t mean Massachusetts.”
Bang. Pow. Zoom. (I’m reserving exclamation points for the first finale of my second act, and that’s my first living with cancer inside New Hampshire inside border joke).
Of all the care plans and nursing processes I’ve written and followed in my nursing career,
--- of all the interventions I’ve applied into the outcomes and moved out of the inputs in each patient’s unique set of challenges,
--- of every vigil I’ve stood and transition I’ve helped to enable and navigate,
--- of every patient’s very own journey through sickness and health … now entered mine.
My last first thought: “Sorry, I hate to bother you, but could you spare a minute for mortality?”
Pow. Pow. Pow.
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Author’s aside: You could call all this a preamble to my constitution, but from here on I’ll be setting aside my usual column approach, at least the kind you and I are long accustomed to --- the kind with beginnings AND endings --- and instead adopt a rolling narrative muse. Call it a diary. Call it a reckoning. I call it words from all my body’s sponsors.
It seems to better suit me in the space and time I now find myself: living day-to-day, sometimes measured weekly, sometimes in seconds. I’m ready if you are, and I do promise to do as we’ve always done in this contract between reader and writer, keeping us close and me as honest as I’m able.
My loving wife Diane is here with me. When I come up short on strength and grit, she’s always there to fill in those blanks and help me steady on. Going in, I’m already ahead of the fight, armed with having her alongside me.
I’m on the eve of beginning treatment. We’ll get through this. After tomorrow, my humor will be shaped by serious business, as it always is, but with one new wrinkle:
Moving into my cancer domain, at least for now, I’ll be spending more time as the bug, not the windshield, as the inflation, not the tire, as the map, not the destination. I’ll have to adjust life’s driving accordingly.
More as we go. Hop on. Let’s ride.
P.S. I’ve named my cancer “Rad Chemo.” Great moniker for a villain. I needed just the right identity for a bratty punk interloper with an attitude.
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