Thursday, December 08, 2005

The biggest stakes of all

The blood test has been performed. And what a performance it was. Now I'm just waiting for that beautiful, awesome, terrifying Big Lottery to see which number I drew this time.

Cold fact: A normal blood calcium level hovers in the 9 to 9.5 range, sometimes slightly lower or higher, depending on the quirks of a person's biochemistry. Mine has gone as high as 14.3. When I was checked last a few weeks ago, it was 11.7.
A difference of one or two points may not seem like much. But that would be like looking at a map of the United States and saying, "Gee, New York and North Carolina are only a few inches apart."

Ah, the magic of numbers.

Blood tests are particularly unpleasant for me because I hate needles. The irony is that this is a cancer whose progress, good or bad, is measured by blood tests. This is what my enemies would call my comeuppance. This is what I call "why me." This is what fate calls tough shit.
I haven't done so -- yet -- but I think I'd faint at the sight of my own blood being taken. Another irony: My first newspaper job was as a sportswriter, and one of my beats was professional boxing. I could sit ringside and watch two men pound each other into ground chuck, and I'd be transfixed. On several occasions, sweat and blood actually spattered the laptop computer on which I was typing my story. My clinical detachment would've made a doctor proud.

But when I go for a blood test, a room has to be reserved for me because I have to lie on my back, take off my glasses to ensure I don't see anything, and cover my eyes with my free hand to make doubly sure. I have to be told to take a deep breath just before the needle enters, and to remember to breathe regularly during the course of the test, all 30 seconds of it.

The woman who takes my blood is a queen among women. By title, she's a phlebotomist. But I would never refer to her by such a cold, ugly word. She's an angel of mercy because she has been putting up with my squeamishness for a few years now. Not only does she not protest, she actually tells me it's OK to react the way I do. This, this is compassion.

So now, the waiting begins. Because the test is done at the hospital as opposed to an outside lab, the results should be ready by tomorrow, maybe even by late this afternoon.
In the past, I've surrendered to the interminable waiting by calling my doctor with anxiety in my voice, and sometimes far too soon, and then sweating bullets while she either looked up the results on the computer or told me that they weren't ready yet.
She and I had a nice talk today (she is another example of compassion incarnate), and I told her that this time I'm not going to call. This time, I'll wait for her to call me.
It's not as if my anxiety is going to change the test result one whit. I can make all sorts of promises to God and mankind about what I'll do if given a good result, but the number is the number.
I want to worry less about those things over which I have little or no control.
Reality's a bitch, but the lessons are priceless.


Beth said...

wow, michael. that's all i can say in response to the situation you are in. it is just so much for someone to bear. i truly hope the test results come back encouraging. peace to you as you endure this most difficult lesson of impermanence, one that none of us wants to learn.

anu said...

I dont know what to write Michael, when test results are not what we expect.

But i know one thing: we are much more than a few numbers on a paper.

Hugs and sending you lots of energy M

Michael said...

Kim, Anu,
Thanks so much to you, my "blog sisters."


Phats said...

I will keep thinking positive thoughts for ya buddy! I got stable counts from my results, so hopefully you will too.

I couldn't watch when they took my blood at first, but now it's not really a problem. I have had so much blood taken I watch to make sure it comes out haha! :)

Michael said...

Phats, thank you! I hope you continue to get excellent results! I can really relate to your situation; I know what the waiting and the uncertainty are like.

g said...

Michael I do hope the doctor calls with the numbers you want to hear, and I know you are not numbers but a marvelous being with courage and zest.

Michael said...

Hello g,
Thank you for your good wishes and for your vote of confidence!
Another day, another challenge...

LBseahag said...

I am glad it all turned out. I am reading this backwards, catching up...

Your use of words move me...