Fancy O Fancy

I had an appointment at 10:30am yesterday at Fancy Hospital for blood test (to check that my white count was high enough for chemo) and then chemo. I had a memorial service to go to at 3pm in Hyde Park and figured I could stop at the nearby Seminary Co-op Bookstore beforehand, which is having a members-only sale, and that I could also arrange to see my Hyde Park friend Miz P before or after. My chemo escort was my out-of-town friend D. We got there at 10.35. The cancer waiting area was packed, like a crowded gate at O'Hare for a group trip to Lourdes: Bald heads. Scarves. Baseball caps. Canes. Wheelchairs. The guy at the counter said the wait was about 20 minutes, and that I didn't have an appointment with my oncologist. I kept asking the guy at the counter when my turn was and he said they were backed up. At one point he said he'd go back and ask then find me and tell me. He didn't. Around 12-something a nurse came out and called my name. Apparently I'd had an 11am appointment with the oncologist. A nurse-practictioner checked me out and then the doctor came in. He was downright bubbly: asked me how my weekend was. Usually he sticks straight to business. I said good, how was yours? He said good. More importantly he said that when I start on the Taxol, in three weeks, I can have it every two weeks instead of every three. So if all goes well I'll be through with chemo at the end of July.

This is good. Also scary, because then I won't be poisoning any cancer cells any more. I'll be defenseless. Not really. But it feels I'm losing armor.

Back to my narrative. I was hungry and cranky and sleepy and don't even remember how I got back to the blood-drawing people. Did one of them come out, too? Anyway, they were scolding me (nicely), saying that the counter guy hadn't put the right paperwork in the box for them, that whenever I had to wait more than 20 minutes, I should come back through the door (ignoring the people at the desk), and let them know I was there. There's a second waiting area behind the door, with magazines such as CURE and HEAL (Coming soon, HEEL: for good dogs who get cancer) and a librarian who comes around and straightens out the end-of-life brochures. The phlebotomist said I needed to report my wait so she had a supervisor come in and get my name and info. Then she sprayed what's called "cold spray" on my skin and plunged in the needle or whatever it used to get liquids into the port. She drew my blood and I had to wait to get my blood components divided and read, and my white cells were fine, ready for the fight against the chemo poison, and then I was put in a room with a real bed. D pointed out how I could adjust it, the head up, etc. "My" nurse was there, always very friendly. This part, she told D, is only 20 minutes. Which of course is ironic. If Fancy had been working like clockwork, I could have gone from blood work to oncologist to chemo and out in an hour. Instead, it was about five. No memorial service. Which was too bad, but then again I had noticed at about 11 that I was wearing a Hawaiian shirt. The service was supposed to be a celebration of life, but I thought my shirt would be too much. I'd either have to go home and change or pick up a shirt at a cheapo place on State Street. D wouldn't switch with me. We kept eying people coming in the waiting room, wondering if I could take their jackets. The nurses wear long, light disposable coats, but I would have stood out even more in one of those and people would have asked me medical questions about the deceased, whom I'd never met.

Instead, when we left Fancy we went to to get wholesome food at a salad bar. (A salad bar! I forgot I'm supposed to eschew them because of the chance of infection.) Then D went to see some other friends. I figured I wouldn't have time to meet up with Miz P. I went to the Newberry Library Bookstore, an outpost of the Seminary Co-op. I managed to find some interesting books (the classic Grammar of Ornament by Owen Jones, The Din in the Head: essays by Cynthia Ozick, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, and Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky, which I realized later I should have tried in French first) and I waited for L and his out-of-town guest R. We had a drink in the beer garden of a bar. I had half a small snifter of Lagunitas Brown Shugga beer, cut with a glass or two of water. We continued our gastronomic experience by going to the dining room of a local cooking school, where my friend N is finishing her coursework. The menu was prix fixe, and the food was very rich, with cheese or cream or coconut milk or butter, butter, butter, in every course. Reminds me of the prix fixe dinner I had last week with WRU writers. N was once a WRU writer, a journalism grad student of mine 22 years ago, fresh out of Yale and New York City, and I was a first-year teacher, freshly escaped from the Miami Herald, where I was thought to be non-mainstream, which was not thought to be a good thing. N was a wonderful writer already, and married, and soon had two boys and three books and writerly occupations. And an ex-husband. Now she started at the beginning, having spent three weeks (I think she said) learning to cut vegetables in all the French permutations while learning the French vocabulary. She made the appetizer tarte, consisting of leeks, corn and mascarpone (cream by any other name is still as fat). It was very good, and she wants to open a restaurant in Evanston. Her concept sounded yummy.

Oh, and just as I had after the last prix fixe dinner, I threw up. I have to remember I can't take rich food any more. I should have asked for more salads and no dessert. When will Cancer Bitch learn? But I do recommend the place. As long as you're not in chemo.

Today at Atheist Torah study (see The Blessing below) the kohain had a great line. We were reading about how you could eat deer and gazelle, but not sacrifice them. Gazelle, he said, that's the original Jewish fast food.