Thursday, May 25, 2006

Journal of a Living Lady #274

Nancy White Kelly

My doctor says I am in denial. I beg to differ.

Earlier this week I was on the examining table of my oncologist. My former oncologist is now semi-retired. She transferred me to a very knowledge young oncologist whom I really do like. I forget what country he is from. Maybe he said Lebanon.

Dr. K. asked the same routine questions that Dr. S. did. I have that litany of questions memorized: “How are you feeling? Anything new? Any rash? Any cough?
Take a deep breath. Blow it out. “

Out of my range of sight, he hammers my spine. He is somewhat gentler than Dr. S. She hit me so hard once in the area where my cancer mets were that I instinctively drew up my fists.

“How many pillows do you sleep on at night? How many trips to the bathroom? How many fingers am I holding up?” I have to admit I want to say something like “twenty or thirty-two,” but I managed to control my attempt at sophomoric humor.

During the course of this examination I casually mentioned the dog episode that recently occurred. Buddy and I were taking an afternoon siesta when we heard a huge commotion in the front yard. I jumped from the bed and looked out the windows. To my horror, a pack of menacing dogs were tossing around what looked like a small, fury, bean bag. Our twelve-year-old Chihuahua lets herself out the doggie door to relieve herself. It occurred to me that his might be our Oppie who was been ripped apart.

Without shoes, I dashed through the den and out the door with every intention of trying to save her. Barefoot also, Buddy grabbed his shotgun. The victim of this attack was a black feral cat that hangs around our creek. The dogs quickly vanished. The wobbly feline ambled across the wide road and promptly died on the other side. I came close to joining her.

Excruciating pain racked my chest. I made it inside the house and Buddy rushed for the oxygen. He put the tube up my nose and began to search for the tiny bottle of nitroglycerin we keep on hand. I could hear him tearing through the cabinets in the kitchen where we keep the prescriptions. He found the nitroglycerin and rushed to place a tiny white table under my tongue.

The pain persisted. I took another pill. The hurting lessened and my short breaths returned to normal. Other than feeling washed out for a day or so, I was fine. Little did I know that telling my story to my oncologist would bring such a stern reaction.

“Do you have a cardiologist?” he asked.

Yes, I did have. However, the last time I saw him he said he wouldn’t touch me with a ten-foot pole. The doctor laughed, but quickly regained his professional demeanor. He tried to make me think that the cardiologist, noting my aggressive cancer, probably thought I wouldn’t live very long. Most likely he didn’t see any point in possibly participating in my death, at least on his shift.

I laughed. Whatever.

Before I exited the examining room for my chemotherapy, Dr. K. made me promise I would see a cardiologist immediately. If I didn’t make an appointment right away, he assured me that he would.

The next morning Buddy told a friend who called his friend who contacted his brother, a prominent cardiologist. Being out of town, the doctor couldn’t see me immediately, but a colleague could. My appointment was at 1:00 p.m. whether I liked it or not.

The new cardiologist said he could have me shipped straight to the major heart hospital in Atlanta. I wasn’t ready for that…not without more evidence this was that serious. The doctor agreed to tests first with my promise that I’d go the E.R. if I had any other pain whatsoever. His staff scheduled a stress-thallium test, plus an echocardiogram. The doctor wrote four more prescriptions, adding to my already burgeoning list of cancer-related drugs. I do believe the only thing I am not on now is skates.

PS: I have had the thallium test. Apparently it must be sent to Atlanta where the graphs will be read by their top-notch heart professionals. In the meantime, I wait, trying not to make any waves that would cause an ambulance to stop by for a swim.

Having had angioplasty a dozen years ago, I know the possibility of further heart problems exists. Genetics are against me too. Everybody who has predeceased me in my family died from the same cause. Their hearts stopped beating.

To be continued.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Journal of a Living Lady #273

Nancy White Kelly

Buddy has picked his share of cotton. In his youth, he plowed unending delta miles. These weren’t sky miles. For Buddy, his unceremonious view on most days was nothing more than the two humps of a Mississippi mule. Schooling wasn’t a priority for most farm boys following the depression.

Opposites do attract. I wanted to be an English teacher. My daddy wanted me to be a lawyer. I scored high enough on a job entry test out of high school that the company wanted to hire me on the spot, assuring me that nobody had ever scored higher. At the tender age of seventeen, that was an ego booster. I never considered myself smart. This job offer was in an elite field that I know now I would have hated. After much deliberation, I decided to stick to my goal of attending college. I envisioned marrying later, perhaps to a college professor or minister.

Buddy graduated in the bottom half of a class of twelve, at least he says so. He lived with convicts part of his early teen years. His father was a corrections officer at Parchman, one of the toughest prisons known at that time.

After high school, Buddy joined the navy rather than be drafted. He spend four years on a naval destroyer, distilling water in inhumane heat, longing for the green, green grass of America. The day he signed out was one of the happiest days of his life.

Unfortunately, the money he had sent ahead for schooling wasn’t there when he arrived home from the service. It was probably the biggest disappointment of his life. With borrowed money, he headed to Florida and worked his way through Emory School of Aviation washing dishes.

Buddy was employed as an aviation mechanic for Eastern Airlines when we met in church one Sunday. The rest is history…forty-one years of it so far.

Buddy and I are a compromise of life-styles. I enjoy books. He likes engines. I enjoy theatre. He endures it.

No shot-gun adorns the back windshield of Buddy’s truck, but he can use one if necessary. My little pistol suits me just fine. I carry it in a case, just in case.

We are equally proud of our southern heritage, mine Tennessee, his Mississippi, our’s Georgia. We don’t need a fifty-foot Confederate flag to confirm it. Instead, we fly the American flag in our front yard.

Buddy is a God-fearing, hard-working, gentleman who loves his family and neighbors. Ditto for me, except that I am a lady.

We are probably more alike now than when we started out. We both can relate to the last verse of Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken.”

“I shall be telling this with a sigh, Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”

One thing I am sure of. The smartest thing I ever did was marry that country boy.