Thursday, February 28, 2013

Gratitude – Little Things Mean SO Much

It’s a quiet evening at the Salt Lake City Veteran’s Hospital. Normally, I leave the door ajar for ideal people-watching vantage.  Of course, that works both ways, not that I’m a particularly pathetic specimen for anyone to see…yet. With the PICC line in my upper arm, I thought it would be more convenient if I went shirtless this morning to make things easier for access to the lines when the nurses took lab blood or when it was time for chemo.  The intern this morning commented, “You look like most of the guys in the VA now.”  I had to laugh and I noticed he was right when I took my IV pole for a walk. I haven’t seen any women here and most of the men do indeed go shirtless in their rooms. In a place where we just want to be comfortable, it feels good to just forego the hospital gown fashion (although I favor athletic warm-ups anyway, and certainly when I’m of the room). It’s a small thing, but then again, the small things sure seem to mean a lot all of a sudden.

The hallways are eerily devoid of the gaggles of doctors, nurses, orderlies, and other people that make this place hum during the day.  The only noise I hear right now is the guy with dementia next door who is rather vocal. I get some work done during these hours and I also have some time to watch something on Netflix or reflect. I find that every time I come to a hospital – this time included – I find that there is something that for which I can be truly grateful. It’s not schadenfreude, but rather a profound reality that regardless of the state I am in, there are those who are working through something more challenging.

One of the nurses who attended me during my testing last week invited me to come down the hall and have a pizza lunch with the rehab patients since I would be on the ward for at least a month.  I got to meet up with a handful of other veterans who were experiencing an extended stay as well. We got to exchange a war story or two and the socialization was a welcome change to the usual. They have fun stuff going on over the weekends when this place empties out so, it’ll be a welcome change…and although the food here has been great, Domino’s hadn’t tasted so good. My dad ‘smuggled’ in a venti Starbuck’s mint mocha in for me today, so I was doubly spoiled.  As you might imagine, the Leukemia Weight Loss® plan is not yet working on me.  I was up 1.6 pounds and the nurse was suggesting that I get a drug to make me drop some liquid weight. Nope…not gonna happen! I was cheating.

I finished my third of three rounds of the Idarubicin (“red devil” chemo) and am mercifully feeling good still. I did a little reading on the Internet and found this is the stuff that causes hair loss and changes urine to a dark red color.  I’ve got about a week left of my full head of hair, so I’m enjoying not doing anything with it. I also understand that *all* of my hair will find itself rejected by my chemically altered body, including a welcome break from shaving. I’m somewhat prone to ingrown hairs, so I get a break from that! I had a survivor of ALL (really bad leukemia) who had a great big Western moustache that matched the size of his belt buckle talk to me about his experience yesterday since the topic of bone marrow transplant came up.  He told me that when he lost his hair, he essentially picked his moustache right off of his face!  I’m clean-shaven these days, but the temptation was almost palpable to let enough facial hair grow in to do something like that. I think I’ll pass on that opportunity.

All in all, today was rather tame compared to yesterday, but as my dinner was placed courteously on my bed this evening, I teared up and realized just how really good I’ve been treated. Every little detail flooded back to me over the course of the day from getting a lovely hot shower that was far from the “navy” soap up and rinse off 2-minute shower I took for granted while serving at sea to the smiles and genuine kindnesses each and every single person from the VA gave me while attending to my needs to my company sending over an IT guy to make sure I had what I needed to make my work more efficient to the calls, text messages, and hugs from loved ones made sure they knew how much I mattered…and then the flood of well wishes from literally around the world from so many places I’ve lived and loved. Every little thing added up to reinforce that I’m so very much held up by countless hands—seen and unseen. I was overwhelmed in an instant in knowing and feeling such an incredible bubble of a palpable love, it just overflowed.

Gratitude is such a shallow word, yet it’s what I have right now. I know I’ll make it thanks in no small part to the many, many healing hands – things small and great that bear me up where I just don’t see or feel or know that I need.

Thank you. Thank you, everyone for giving me what you have.