Monday, April 28, 2008

Life to Its Fullest

I want to tell you a little story about a friend of mine. The date is February 2, 2002, and as my friend tells it, she was re-born on that day. Let's see if I can tell it through her eyes.

Her name is Samantha, but people call her Sam and she likes it that way. She is young, sexy, of course, so the masculine name is okay by her. People know she is all woman.

She is in her doctor's office. This is the second visit in a week, a bit surprising because she has only had yearly visits for the last few years. You know the type, the visits that is dreaded – half the time, they scrape the walls of the cervix for fun (okay, for preventive medicine, I suppose).

First visit – they did an x-ray of her chest because they thought she might have pneumonia. Actually, the visit is more of a blur than anything. Not sure why they called her back – it was not explained well. She finds out later it was because someone besides the doctor in the office needed to take a look at her x-rays. Guess they did not want to worry her.

The nurse has already taken her vital signs. Blood pressure is a little elevated. No mystery why that is to Sam. She has on white cotton ankle-high socks, lavender panties, and a white paper examination gown. The panties don't quite match the gown, and she wonders why she is thinking about matching at a time like this.

As she is waiting, she notices that the computer is still on, showing her vital signs, her name, age, and some history. There are some lines that look like previous visits, and tests that were performed on her body. One line says something, and "x ray" is in the line. There are two lines with x-ray, actually, and she clicks on the more recent line.

It pulls up a report by a radiologist. It looks almost like an email, but many of the words are foreign. She cannot make everything out, but she does see something at the bottom. It is written in something like English, with a heading of interpretation or findings, she cannot now remember which.

She does not know precisely what it means, but the radiologist note says that her x-ray suggests several small tumors in her lungs, but that they should have an MRI to resolve what these growths are.

Her pink face turns white.

She does not remember the doctor visit at all. She is pretty sure he had her breathe, and she is sure that a pelvic exam was not part of the tests done. All she really knows is that she got a piece of paper, telling her that she has an MRI appointment in two days.

The doctor may have explained that the MRI was routine, to further resolve what is going on in the chest area. Her impression, fuzzy as it is, is that this was explained as a routine test. Funny thing is that the MRI was scheduled the same week; peculiar because she thought that these machines had months long waiting lists.

The MRI exam was also disturbing. It took about an hour, and they decided to take more pictures, just because. The MRI technicians, there were two of them, looked like they had discovered surgical tools left inside of her, but she had never had an operation. Going home that day, Sam thought she was dying.

For the next five days, Sam continued to play facts in her mind. Radiologist is thinking she had cancer. Two MRI techs, acting cool, definitely did not like the images they were taking with their big magnet. All she really knew was that whatever was making her feel so bad was not pneumonia. And by all guesses, it was much worse.

One would think Sam would have become depressed. She had one sleepless night; she thought all evening about her life, what she was doing with it, that it may soon end. She also thought of things she had planned to do but did not do.

The next night, she was going to tell her husband about her bad prognosis. This was Friday night, and she made a nice dinner for him. She greeted him at the door with a smile and a kiss, an aroma in the kitchen warned him that he was to come to the dinner table instead of plopping himself on the couch.

They had Cornish hens, asparagus, rice, and a good $10 bottle of wine. Clothes were off after dinner, but I don't know exactly how the rest of the night went. Sam did mention that there was no television that night, but she also did not tell him about the bad news. They woke in each others' arms the next morning, and though I do not know this, I would suggest that they ached from the previous night. A good aching; the kind you have when you have pain and smile at the same time.

Sam continued to wonder about her mortality; actually thinking about it for the first time. She looked at her life, her unfinished plans, and identified where she had gone off track. Then something happened. She became at peace with her own demise.

A few days later, she had the dreaded doctor visit. The spots were explained away, actually, as being some kind of fungus. She asked about cancer, and the physician looked at her closely.

"Samantha, I never said anything about cancer."

She knew that the doctor knew that she knew more about her condition than she was willing to offer up.

"Oh, I just thought with the MRI and all, it might be cancer."

I would have thought that February 2, 2002 would be a day to forget. The day you thought you had cancer. But for Sam, tough as nails as she is, she says it was more like a wake-up call. It was like someone (God, perhaps, or Atomic Chickens ® who rule the world) had told her that her life is precious, and that she needed to start doing the things she finds important.

She celebrates every February second. She makes a nice dinner for her husband, and more often than not, she serves the same meal, down to the asparagus. Her husband has no idea to this day, though he has noticed a change in her, a change that he likes. She celebrates life; she has been given a second chance. It was not cancer but the realization that her life is precious. That has made the difference for Sam.

For me, I see Sam's story as a call to look at my life, to see where I may have drifted off the path set by an idealistic young woman.


Lara said...

This is an amazing story. What a great post.

I need to find this perspective.

Jonah K. Haslap said...

I knew it! Atomic chickens DO rule the world! Do you know if they're taking applications??

phd in yogurtry said...

What a life affirming message. Enjoy today. Live to the fullest. Appreciate every little moment. We all need to follow this. Great post.

Leesa said...

lara: this story is my touch-stone. When I start to loose perspective, I think of Sam.

jonah: Don't tell Grant I used his chickens.

PhD in yogurtry: thanks, sweetie.

Bruce said...

Considering how profound a gift life is, it's amazing how easily we take it for granted. Leesa, thank you for sharing Sam's story. Each breath I take today will be a sweet one, indeed.

thailandchani said...

This is some truly wonderful writing. And of course I agree with the overall message. :)

Muse said...

Beautiful writing, as usual. :-)

You do have a way Babe.

グラント said...

I have yet to encounter a "life is precious" near-life experience, so I continue to fill my daze with booze and Japanese women.

Ian Lidster said...

This is an amazing story and beautifully told, Leesa. One of your absolute best. It's inspiring ultimately, and chilling at first. A wake-up call for many of us. Bravo.

Stacy The Peanut Queen said...

Wow...that was close.

You've inspired me to write about The PK's brush with mortality. scared us both more then I ever care to admit.

Leesa said...

bruce: yeah, every once and a while, I look at how I am spending my time, making sure I am not wasting my life.

chani: thanks, sweetie.

muse: nice seeing you again.

grant: well, "booze and Japanese women" is probably just as good.

ian: thanks, sweetie. I typed it out in less than 30 minutes, and I did not look it over. It just flowed.

stacy: I am assuming his brush with mortality did not involve saying anything stupid. I can't wait to read it.

~Deb said...

It's amazing what our minds do when we even conjure up the thought of it possibly being the "C" word. I'm glad Samantha was ok, but still very scary!

Leesa said...

~deb: I know you know, sweetie.

~Deb said...

Sometimes people need that little "scare" in order to wake up and realize what's around us.