I walk hard, like my mother, moving as confidently as I can across the porch. My boots pound the wood loudly. No one is watching. No one is listening, but I need to convince myself that I’m okay. Maybe if I don’t act sick or look sick, I won’t be sick. I wrap my sweater around me and rub my neck, feeling insecure without my scarf. I turn back toward the house and remember all my scarves are dirty. The washing machine’s broken, and I’m still waiting for that darn part to come in.
I move down the walkway and look back at my house. There is a vulture sitting on the roof. That can’t be a good sign. I laugh to myself, shake my head, and keep moving. I get in my car and drive past the bank, the elementary school, the Quaker Meeting House, and a field of wild turkeys. Everything is the same, but it doesn’t seem the same because my thoughts are different. I make a right into the driveway. I park, get out the car, and move slowly towards the entrance of the small building. I read the words on the door, “Oncology/Hematology,” and my muscles turn muddy and the brown welcome mat sinks beneath my feet.
The patients in the waiting room are old and very pale. A few of the ladies wear scarves on their heads. I am used to wearing one around my neck for style. One lady is crying softly. I cannot see her. She is sitting behind me. “They hurt me,” she whispers.
“It shouldn’t hurt,” says a man with a shaky voice. I assume it’s her husband. “It never hurts when I have it done. I’m going to talk to them about it.” I imagine they have been married for years. I imagine he feels helpless.
I watch patients come and go. I cannot believe I am sitting in the waiting room for over an hour-an hour, just long enough to become more anxious. I hear nurses in the back say words like “chemo” and “marrow.” I tell myself to think positive. I tell myself to pray. A young lady opens the door that leads to the back. She calls my name, searching the room. She smiles when she sees me rise from my chair. Not a sincere smile, but the tight lip kind that tightens even more when her eyebrows raise. It’s that smile that lets you know she’s just doing her job.
In the back, I am instructed to have a seat and pull up my right sleeve. It’s a process I have gotten used to. It is the fourth time I have had my blood drawn this winter. I don’t feel nervous at all until the phlebotomist says, “Hmm…I don’t know why I’m having trouble with this. It’s not coming out.” She jiggles the needle a bit while it is still in my arm, and I give her a dirty look. Then I swear I hear air and then a slurping sound. “Oh, there you go. Now, it’s coming through. It’s tough because that vein is right near a small bone.” It is the first time in a long time I have wanted to smack someone.
In the back I wait another hour for the doctor, my thoughts growing darker with each minute and with each conversation I hear through the walls. The hematologist walks in smiling. She extends her hand. I extend mine, wanting to skip the formality and ask, “Am I dying?” Instead, I compliment her on her shoes.
She sits at the computer. We chat like old friends, and I wonder if she is just trying to relax me before she gives me the results. In the few seconds after she says, “I have your results,” I review my life. I am surrounded by love. I am deeply satisfied, and I no longer care who is responsible for the the dime that got caught in the pump of the washing machine.
“I’ll give you the good news first. You do not have lymphoma or leukemia,” she folds her hands and continues, “but you do have a platelet disorder and severe anemia. My mind searches through a string of definitions from Biology 101. I must look a bit clueless because she further explains, “Your blood does not clot properly. That’s why you had to have the transfusion six months ago.”
“I see,” I nod.
“Well, I am going to put you on an iron supplement and, ” she removes her glasses and rubs her eyes, “I will be in contact with your gynecologist so we can start you on hormone therapy also. We can’t transfuse you every time you have your menses, that’s for sure. That would be ridiculous. But… you are a relatively young woman, so if you decide to have more children, we are really going to have to sit down and discuss the risks first.”
“How come no one has ever picked up on this? I’m thirty-one-years old.”
“I’m not sure, but we know what’s going on now, and we will have you back in great shape in no time.”
“No more blackouts?”
“No, no more blackouts or days in bed unable to lift your head from the pillow,” she scribbles on a small blue sheet of paper. “Here’s your script.”
She follows me to the front desk and hands the receptionist my folder. “I’ll see her in four weeks.”
After I make my appointment, I walk through the waiting room pass a new group of women, wearing scarves wrapped tightly on their heads.