Monday was a long day. We had five hours between appointments.
“Let’s get out of here,” Will suggested. I was happy to oblige.
MD Anderson is a wonderful place. It is a world of innovation and groundbreaking medical treatments. I have experienced such kindness and hope from many of the doctors and medical staff. The place is buzzing with volunteers–even occasional live music from a baby grand piano player.
BUT, it’s still a cancer hospital. People walking around, rolling IV bags. Bald heads, wheel chairs, and face masks… But, the scariest thing is when we see people who look just like us: a couple in their thirties, a toddler wrapped around her daddy’s leg. The mama is bald and frail. The adults look tired and afraid. The little girl is wide-eyed and innocent…happy in her sweet state of oblivion. The mama looks like she’s dying. The dad looks like his beating heart is being ripped out of his chest. And, when we make eye contact with this beautiful family, they see themselves in us and we see ourselves in them. It is a reminder of just how real this all is. So we decided to get out of there. We have to guard our hearts and minds right now. It is essential. Life changing.
We grabbed a fun lunch at Dish Society, one of our favorite Houston eateries. Most everything on the menu is house-made and organic. I ordered the kale and Brussels super salad. (I never thought I would feel this way, but this salad rocks my world.) I chased it with a Topo Chico. My favorite drink on the planet. (Thanks, Ann, for introducing me!)
After our fun lunch, Will mentioned that he needed to catch up on some work calls and emails. He asked if he could take me somewhere in the area to pass the time. We just happened to be a few miles away from the Houston Galleria.
Twelve minutes later I found myself in the Nordstrom shoe section. Mules. Pumps Loafers. Booties. Sneakers. I was in heaven!
Then a tall, slightly balding, yet strangely handsome man named Franco approached me.
“May I help you, Meeese?” He asked. He was Latino. My gente. (Spanish for “my people.) I loved him already.
“I would like to try on these Cole Haan sneakers. They look very comfortable. My husband has them in every color.” I said as I handed him the very practical shoe.
“Oh yes,” he said with a Spanish accent. “That is a very nice shoe. Let me grab your size.”
Franco returned with seven boxes.
Here are the Cole Haans,” he said. “But, I have something else that I think you might need to see. They are very, very sexy.” His Rs rolled every time he said verrrry.
As I was slipping a shoe onto my foot, I caught a glimpse of my right arm. I was still swearing my MD Anderson white bracelet from earlier that morning. (Every MDA patient has to wear his or her white bracelet to appointments.) I was wearing workout pants, wonder woman underwear, and a white T-shirt. Sexy wasn’t exactly my goal or my look these days. But, I love people. I love connection. I loved Fanco and his ridiculously tall stack of boxes. So I obliged.
One can imagine my amazement whenever Franco opened a black box. It was like he was opening a treasure chest with gold beams flowing out, like radiant light…sexy radiant light for my feet. (I’m cracking myself up as I write this.)
“Franco,” I said. Our time together has been special. Now, I need to tell you something before our relationship goes any farther. I’m in Houston because I’m a patient at MD Anderson. In two hours, I have chemotherapy.”
“I am so sorry, Vero,” he said. “It is not fair that someone so young and beautiful must go through cancer treatment. But you just deserve to look sexy. That’s why I brought you theses.” Then, he pulled out the cutest shoes I’ve ever seen in my life. This guy was good.
The $hit storm of shoes continued until my phone rang. It was Will.
“Hey honey, where are you?” He asked.
I thought about lying and telling them I was in the coffee shop just to throw him off. I needed to buy myself time. I was surrounded by boxes of shoes.
I panicked. I can’t lie. “I’m in the shoes! Oh no, I’m in the shoes!! I’m in deep, babe! I need an intervention!”
As I reached around box after sexy box of shoes I scurried to the counter.
“Franco we have to act fast! My husband is on his way!”
For the record, Will and I don’t keep secrets. I don’t “secret shop.” We don’t tell each other what to do. But, I’m not sure if a “shoe spree”was what he intended when he said I could “pass the time.” He just needed to meet Franco and see these verrrrry sexy shoes.
Just then, I heard an all-too familiar sound: a sound I’ve heard for 10 years. It evokes a feeling of mild dread. Like back in the 8th grade, when I was caught by my father toilet-papering my neighbor’s house…Like I just got the BUZZ on America’s Got Talent. But, I didn’t even get to sing the chorus!! Just let me finish wrapping this one tree!!
I typically hear this sound when I’ve done something that my husband finds less than appealing. It’s something I like to call the “Thunder Throat.” It’s how Will clears his throat when he’s annoyed.
It sounds like thunder rolling in from the dark clouds of Hurricane What-the-Hell.
Mayday, Mayday. Franco, hide the boxes!
The “Thunder Throat” got louder and louder until I could feel the presence of Will behind me.
“Are all of those yours?” He asked. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that there was one more order being shipped to our house.
This may sound so silly. But, for an hour, I wasn’t someone with stage four disease. I wasn’t a worried-sick mother obsessing about about her daughters. I was Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, minus the risqué outfit and the thigh-high vinyl boots (and her, ahem, career choice.) I was the misfit who wasn’t supposed to be shopping in the pretty store.
As we walked through the Galleria parking garage., I started to cough. Fumes and intense smells really bother my lungs these days. We got into the car and I continue to cough violently. Will reached over and rub my back. I began to cry.
“I shouldn’t have bought all those shoes. That was irresponsible and silly. I’ll send them all back.”
Will looked at me, reached his hand onto my leg. “Listen to me,” He said. “You are going to be here for a really long time. And, you need verrry sexy shoes, damnit.”
Then we drove to the hospital for my first chemo.
Chemo 2.1 (Second time with cancer, first treatment) wasn’t terrible.
The sweet nurse had a terrible time finding a vein that would hold an IV. So, I was poked three times in three different places. I had to have dressing to stop the bleeding.
But, another nurse came in and prayed with me. She help my hand and told me to relax. She said, ” In the name of Jesus…” And, she found a vein.
The infusion started around 7:30 p.m. I was scheduled for 5:30. Everything was running late. And, the team was doing the beat they could. Will sat by my side.
As the first chemotherapy started, I felt a freezing cold sensation in my wrist (where the IV was.) It was burning and aching and scary. I didn’t move my arm for the two hour process.
The good thing is that I didn’t have allergic reactions, nausea, or any of the scary effects that could have happened.
We left the hospital around 10:00 p.m. And, I don’t recall leaving the chemo chair. I don’t remember the ride or the conversation.
But, when I got to the hotel, took a warm bath, and fell asleep to “Oceans” by Hillsong United. I fell asleep meditating to the following words:
I will call upon Your Name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine
I don’t know if this medicine will work. I don’t know how long I will be here. There are so many questions and variables and uncertainties.
But, one thing I know for sure. When oceans rise, and indeed they will, my soul will rest in the warm embrace of my Creator. I am His and He is mine. That is enough for now.
I woke up feeling rested and well.
Thank you for your prayers.