Chattering Mind

By Valerie Reiss, filling in for Amy.

Hi. So last night I went for my annual CAT scan to make sure that I still don’t have cancer again. I know Amy’s written about her fantasy of how hospitals should be–soothing music, healing, whole food, inspiring decor, etc. I’m with her.

I walked into–the admittedly more posh-than-most–CAT waiting room at Memorial Sloan-Kettering and there’s Wolf Blitzer on the flat-screen saying “And which celebrity has cancer? Stay tuned to find out.” Last time, there was a forest fire on CNN. And soon after Wolf, while I was chugging on my Raspberry Isotope Delite with Splenda (looks like fuscia Kool Aid), came Lou Dobbs, inspiring the 20-something male cancer patient next to me to start bitterly ranting about how illegal immigrants “breed” too much.

So I plugged into my ‘pod to drown it all out. Ick. Then a nurse looks at me and says, “Vanessa?” I’m like, “Valerie?” she checks her sheet and nods. I go with her. She says they’d been calling my name. I said I’d been listening to my music to drown out CNN because it’s all so depressing. She noted that I had a point, but that whenever something bad happens patients always ask to have CNN turned on. That depressed me even more.

Since we clearly don’t know what’s good for us when we’re waiting for a stressful exam that could tell us just how long we have left on earth, I’m suggesting obligatory relaxation. Or humor. Anything but death, destruction, and hate.

As I was leaving, I looked around the now mostly empty waiting room and there were scattered bottles of the raspberry drink and empty paper cups with flexi straws. It looked like the remains of a kegger in the cancer hospital. Which, I guess, it was. One woman sat there, looking grim. The (bad) news was on, the Times was sitting there looking unwelcoming and gray amid the cup/bottle detritus. I had the thought, “I want to give her something.” A thought, I might add, I would normally ignore.

But I handed her my Elle Decor that I had bought specially to get through this visit–I find listening to my own music and staring and pretty, shiny things is the best way to get through these. He face lit up and I saw that it was perfect. Perfect to not hold back the urge to give.

Anyway, I’m not sure what my point is, exactly, but I made it through CAT #zillion and managed to share a nice moment with someone also suffering in those unconscious waiting rooms. So though I feel like hurling (the raspberry stuff–full of iodine– has a way of lingering). I also feel a teeny bit glad and proud and less alone.

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