Saturday, December 1, 2012

Rainy Day Visit to Doctor B

It was a cool,wet morning, yesterday morning was. Steady rain overnight took most of the leaves off  the trees. Now on the sidewalk, the leaves indicated that the season had truly changed. On her morning walk, Gracie gingerly tried to avoid stepping on the leafs. I like kicking the leaves, but for Gracie they're a mystery. At times, on the walk. there are so many leaves that Gracie refuses to walk through them. She''d stop and try her best to hold her ground, while I tried to pull her to keep on going. It's a battle at times. Stubborn vs stubborn.

The morning walks with Gracie have been hugely important in my recovery. It's my chance to think and ponder and give myself a pep talk. Gracie knows this. She'll often look up at me, as if she is saying something similar. She knows. My journey has so altered the way I think about things and what I belief in.  The rainy morning yesterday reminded me of a couple of dreams I had early on. I'd be trying to go somewhere. It'd be dark and rainy. I'd seemingly be in the middle of nowhere, but I wasn't going to give up in getting to my destination. My step dad, Ed, however, would make my travels impossible. He'd throw obstacles and misdirections at me....preventing me for going to where I thought I needed to be. These dreams were so vivid. So real. Of note..Ed passed away several years ago. Thus, I now believe in much more than I did before. I believe Gracie knows what I've gone through. And I believe she knows her importance in my recovery. For this alone, I decide if she doesn't want to walk through the leaves then so be it. She's earned the right.

Leslie and I get in the car to make the 40 miles journey to the doctor. The gas gauge is leaning towards E,so a quick stop for some vehicle fuel is required. Driving to the doctor, the radio plays a series of songs that make up a mystery theme. Leslie guesses the theme is Alfred Hitchcock. I, unfortunately, am unable to think of a theme. Turns out the theme is that all that songs had a snippet of foreign language in them. I'm focused on the wet road and looking at the clock..recognizing that we may be late. Leslie calls the office and says we'll be about 15 minutes late. "No problem" they tell us. "Take your time". This simple message reminds of the amazingly wonderful people we've met.

I've got a problem, my brain thinks too much. I recap and review things constantly, driving myself to the edge on mania. Going over and over again what's been said ,what I've said, what I've done. On the drive to the doctor, I think about an internet radio session I had done the day before with Dr B and other myeloma patients. The doctor did most of the talking. I asked two questions. I worry that when I see the doctor this day, he'll say my questions were stupid and more importantly, he'll say my voice and my delivery were all wrong. Self esteem has not been my strong suit and the myeloma has done nothing to improve it and in fact might have worsened it. Nonetheless, I resolve to face the doctor bravely and confidently....I plan to show not even a hint of thinking I sounded like a idiot on the internet call.

Half way to the doctor's office there is a massive sign on a parking structure promoting Coors Light and USC football. "Every game's a reason to celebrate". The grammar sounds wrong to me. I want it to be wrong. I've asked people and they say it is correct. "Too bad" I think. I am reminded of when I was a youngster. I liked USC football growing up. But now, that's not the case. I'm a UCLA alum. Down with USC and down with USC football. I also think about work and how a recent item I wrote was redlined by my boss. I like to try and get creative with mundane letters and memos. I get shot down every time. I decide that I'm too creative to work in such a bureaucratic office. You can't trap my creativity!!!

Leslie and I arrive at the office. The rain is still coming down. I have a large umbrella that looks like a Minnesota Vikings helmet. There is room for both of us. Coincidences seems to be never ending. Berenson's office is located about a block away from where Ed's sister Marcy lives...near Sunset and Doheny. You'd think I might stop in to see Marcy, but it just hasn't happened yet. Also, curiously, we park on a side street...Phyliss Road.  Ed and Marcy's mom's name was Phyliss. Also nearby is the old house of Chuck Barris. Many years ago, I'd been a gopher, a runner, an errand boy for the producer of many a game show...including the gong show. I was maybe 20 years old at the time. I had keys to his house. When he'd be out of town, I might take a date to the house to try and impress the young lady. Foolish foolish Matt. I think about how I squandered the chance to parlay the opportunity into a real job in the entertainment industry. But I was young and only cared about the party. So instead here I am, my creativity stifled in a bureaucracy.

Leslie and I walk into the office building. Construction outside the building has been on going for several months. We look at each other and note that this construction has been taking forever. We chuckle and nod, both knowing that it seems wrong for the construction to take so long. A man in the lobby gives us a plastic bag to cover the wet umbrella. A woman says to her young son; "look at that cool umbrella." The building is in West Hollywood. It serves a number of different purpose, primarily medical offices.We saw Ted Danson once in the parking lot.

In Berenson's lobby we sit and wait. I read a story about Immerman's Angels, a cancer support group. I think about how nervous we were when we first came to this office. Not knowing my fate. My very first visit Berenson, I was greeted by a fellow patient, a friendly older lady, who sensed my fear. She simply smiled and said "you're in the right place".  I think last month I saw this woman again. No words were spoken but we smiled at each other and I sent her a mental message letting her know that she was oh so correct. I was in the right place. Now when I go to Berenson, I've already seen my labs, I have a sense, a confidence that I know what he'll say. "doing great, we're not changing  a thing".  We're taken to a room. Weight, temperature, blood pressure taken. The doctor has a booming voice and you can hear  him giving nurses and patients instructions as he makes his way to see me. He enters  the room. I'm a little nervous, still wondering if he'll slam my performance the day before. He enters the room and says " hello. so we're doing radio interviews now. I bet they were blown away by bluntness" I say "yes, but it was great, you gave some great information and I think it's good for folks to hear your philosophy". End of discussion. whew! My self worth doesn't take a hit.

We go through the usual examination and questions. I'm doing great. Nothing changes. We have the doctor and nurse look at my port. It's been sore and red. It's where we do my infusion and allows me to not have needles put in my arm. The nurse suggest we get it xrayed to see if it is still in place. "will do" I say.

Time to leave the office. Back in the lobby I see  a smiling woman. We say hello. We're linked by myeloma. But she continues to look at me, indicating she knows me. Duh! It's Debbie. An old friend of my uncle's and me. I knew her over 25 years ago, when I was young and only interested in having a good time and not taking advantage of opportunities Debbie also has myeloma. She was diagnosed 5 or 6 years ago. I spoke to her when I first diagnosed. She was the only fellow patient I wanted to talk to at the time. Recently her myeloma started to get active again and her doctor suggested she see Berenson. Debbie had called me a few months back and told me she'd be seeing Berenson. I told her she "was going to the right place" That's a message worth sharing.

Normally after Berenson, Leslie and I will make a pit stop at Canter's deli for lunch before making the trip back to Long Beach. This day is different. We've got to go to the dentist in L.A. The dentist is a friend of mine from UCLA, Ramon. So Leslie and I decide to eat somewhere different before making our way on the slick, glistening streets of L.A. We go to El Coyote. It's a famous, old Mexican restaurant on Beverly Blvd. We'd go there with Ed as a kid. It's near his old business. It's also near a 4 story high brick office building that my dad worked in decades ago. We eat. I order a double order of rice and forgo beans, Beans are not good for my kidneys. I miss beans, but I've adjusted and am used to saying "rice only please"

We eat. The place hasn't changed. We make our way to the dentist. We're late, lunch took longer than expected.We finish up at the dentist and make our way home. Gracie was waiting patiently for us. She greets us at the door and we all smile and nod, acknowledging the road we've been on. This day..yesterday... I think to myself how I've come full circle on so many things. Giant, blaring, neon circles. Full circle.  I vow to get focused and to make lists and to not let opportunities pass me by.

The End

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Berenson Oncology Success Rate

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