Saturday, February 23, 2008

Men in Gowns

You remember my old roommate Sam, the WWII vet 50 years my senior? He was there because they were draining fluid and blood from his lungs. On the day I was moving back to my room, I overheard the doctor telling him they'd found some abnormal cells in his lungs.

I wasn't able to visit Sam for a few more days, because of how I was feeling and because he'd been briefly moved. I'd planned to surprise him with some green tea because he kept asking for it when he got his meals. (I'd asked Vicky to bring some of my Chinese green tea and, as it turned out, my mother coincidentally picked up the very same brand he'd been asking for the same day.)

When I was able to walk a bit more and Vicky found out where he'd been moved (my old spot), I visited whenever I could. I spoke first with his wife Linda, who said the doctors suspected cancer and asked about my early blood tests and how my leukemia was detected.

Whenever I saw Sam again I had to remind him of who I was (there's that short-term memory loss again) but we got along. The funny thing was, here's this guy who's more than twice my age (and survived a war) and I found myself giving him tips on dealing with drastic weight loss (put the wedding ring away unless you want it to roll off your finger into some nook) loss of appetite (don't dwell on it, just eat what you comfortably can), and a few other things I won't go into.

The last time I saw him the family had received the news that he'd probably only last a few more weeks. His daughter had flown in from Halifax, and I helped her buy a voice recorder so she could preserve his last few conversations. The next day he was moved to palliative care.

I met a new neighbour from around the corner when he was trying to figure out how to get into the shower. (I told him it's sometimes locked to make sure no one jumps the gun—the shower is cleaned and disinfected before use, generally on the request of a specific patient. As it happened I was that patient, but circumstances forced me to skip the shower.) I've run into him a few times during my walks and the last time we noticed his IV pump was sporting a chemo bag. I haven't had a chance to talk to him about it since. Odds are, he's feeling pretty crappy now and isn't up for walking. But he seems to have a good sense of humour.

I was also introduced to Jason, who's two doors down. Jason also has AML, and like me is here because he relapsed. He's just started on the same cocktail I was on. Jason is younger than me (in his twenties, I think) and quite energetic and fun. The only thing is, he doesn't take his neutropenia seriously. He walks around without mask or gloves, and apparently was out clubbing after he was first discharged, but while his counts were a bit low. So: fun, but potentially self-destructive. Looks like we're going to be a fun group.



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