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A Humorous Look at the Bright Side of Cancer... and There Is One

March 16th, 2016

Dear Fran Drescher #21

Waiting to get CT scan done. Photo by Susie Spaeth

Dear Fran,

It has been an emotional day:

First of all, I got three hours of sleep last night.
My friend Susie picked me up at 8:00 this morning; my CT was set for 9:00.
“Maria, I did not realize you were coughing,” she said from the driver’s seat. “I thought it was just a routine test.”
“I’m sure it’s just allergies. Dr. Hoffman seemed more concerned than I was at my appointment last week.
“Why do you have to wait until the 28th to get an answer?” she asked.
“He was booked solid until then. I’m on a waiting list. There’s not much I can do about it.”
“Are you sure?”
I glanced at the dashboard clock. Maybe there was something I could do about it. “Hey, do you think we can swing by Dr. Hoffman’s before the CT scan?” I asked. “Maybe by some miracle, they can squeeze me in today.”
“I think that’s a fabulous idea,” she exulted.
I marched into the oncologist’s office and somehow managed to secure an appointment to go over the results at 1:40.
Susie and I finally drove into the Mt. Baker Imaging parking lot. For the life of me, I could not recall if I had been there before.
However, in those first few days of being diagnosed with “advanced” breast cancer back in 2009, I recall Ken had urged me to write a book about my experiences. I told him to shut up. I was too busy trying not to die from cancer. I also had a hazy remembrance of having a CT scan all those years ago… and a bone scan… and a brain scan. I just wasn’t sure that those scans had taken place in this building.
Then, the minute I walked through the door this morning, I recognized the waiting room. There they were: the three chairs against the wall. Newly diagnosed, I had been sent to get my first CT scan for staging. I remember that day clearly. Ken had sat in the chair closest to the magazine table, and a young man had sat in the chair closest to the doorway to the back of the clinic. I sat smack-dab between them.
I remembered the older woman (having completed her appointment) struggling with her walker and perusing the waiting room for her husband. When he finally came to collect her, she berated him loudly: “Why weren’t you here waiting for me?”
He responded quickly with, “I’ve been waiting for you out in the parking lot for half an hour.”
“Well, I’ve been waiting for you….” They continued to argue all the way out the door.
“Give me my notebook and pen,” I snapped my fingers at Ken. I wrote down the whole sad story in broad strokes and whispered to Ken, “When I’m that old, just promise you’ll come get me.” The young man next to me snickered and “Cancer Is A Funny Thing” was born.
I explained the above memory to Susie, who sat next to me reading a glossy magazine.
The technician—her name was Amy—called my name. I stood and followed her into the examination room. She explained that when she administered the iodine by IV (to be used for contrast), I would suddenly feel like I was having a hot flash and peeing my pants, all at the same time. Perfect. A preview of my life to come.
She was not kidding. It was amazing to me how fast it happened. Within seconds, everything went the way she said it would.
Susie and I had an unexpected four hours to kill before my appointment at Dr. Hoffman’s. The first stop was Denny’s; I had not been allowed to eat or drink anything since the night before.
Next, we went to a garden nursery and each bought the same helleborus variety called “Spring Promise.” I was pretty sure those words were going to be prophetic of a good result from my test.
After we had put our flowers in the car and hopped in to go to our next destination, Susie turned to me. “Wow, that guy was sure following you around.”
“What guy? What are you talking about?”
“The employee. He was totally hitting on you.”
“He was not.” I was flabbergasted. Those days were long gone.
“Yes, he surely was,” she said emphatically.
“I guess I was too busy drooling over all the plants.”
Three hours—and a trip to Fred Meyer for deodorant and Menzie’s for frozen yogurt—later, we shuffled into the doctor’s office. Susie sat in a chair against the far wall while I sat in the chair right next to his desk.
“Dr. Hoffman, you remember Susie, right?” I was a firm believer in introductions.
“Sure,” he said as he plopped down in his seat.
“You do not.” Boy, I sure was being contrary today. Cut me some slack… three hours of sleep, remember?
“Yes, I do.”
I didn’t believe him, but we carried on with the appointment anyway.
He clicked a bunch of keys on the computer in front of him. “Well, I received a copy of your CT. There were no something-somethings found, no blood clots, or blah-de-blah, blah, blah….” He rattled off a list of foreign words a mile long.
“So, it’s all clear,” I observed. At least that’s what I think he said.
“Yes, but I’d still like to know why you are coughing,” he added.
“Because of allergies.” I pointed my finger at him. “I told you that last Wednesday.” Lack of sleep, people, in case you thought I was being rude. Besides, I smiled when I said it. And noticed that Susie seemed a lot more relaxed than she had when we first entered the room.
“You need to go see Haley Burton,” Dr. Hoffman instructed, “or go to a lung specialist to see about getting an inhaler. Do you have any idea of what you’re allergic to?”
“Probably dairy.” I tried not to think of the coconut-and-chocolate combo frozen yogurt I had eaten right before my trip to see him.
“I think you’re allergic to Susie.”
We all laughed.

Well, Fran, that was my day in a (very long) nutshell. I’m glad that Susie and you are such good friends to me. And that I have a funny doctor. And most of all, I’m thankful that God is not done with me yet.

Best friends always,


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Marie de Haan

Marie de Haan


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