"Where are you?" I asked Brother via phone, having peered down the hallways looking for him to guide me to the exam room.
"Where are you?" he replied and I rolled my eyes.
"I'm exactly where you told me to meet you," I whined impatiently. "You said to come in, take the elevator and arrive at Pod C. So I came in, took the elevators and arrived at Pod C. Where Are You?!"
"I'm outside looking for you," he admitted sheepishly. "Give me 2 minutes to get back."
I took deep breaths as I waited, leaning there against the wall in the sunny cancer center. Nothing was going according to plan and one would think I'd embrace the concept after the last few weeks, but I still struggle against it, striving hopelessly for control.
After writing the blog post, I made my way toward home, planning to land at 10PM and be in bed by 11. The plane broke in Detroit, however, resulting in 90 minutes on the broken plane before leaving it and arriving at another. I crawled into bed after 1AM and slept fitfully until the morning sunshine nudged at my eyelids.
"Crap," I murmured to greet the day and stumbled out of bed to brush my teeth, gulp down coffee and walk my drugged dog so that her sedative could take affect before I hefted her into an already-packed Jeep. She mostly slept as we sped toward home, feeling sleepily hopeful that Dad would do well with his initial chemotherapy and Mom's surgeon would have encouraging news.
"Sorry," Brother said, wearing the abashed smile that often graces my face when I screw something up. I laughed at him and exchanged hugs before entering the same room we'd used at our last oncologist visit.
I kissed Mom (who looked stressed) and Dad (who looked just a little afraid) and stood next to Brother in front of the sink on one wall.
"Ready to get started?" the doctor asked when he opened the door and we all nodded and murmured in the affirmative. He shuffled through papers, hummed over blood pressure (which was extremely low) and indicated blood counts were all fine.
And we went to the waiting room. Where we waited. And waited. And Waited Some More.
Dad was a trooper, continuing to answer us that he was fine - just ready to get started - when we inquired. Brother went to fetch him some juice. I held his hand and chattered about my trip. Mom looked on worriedly. And we all sighed with relief when - nearly 90 minutes after we were meant to begin - they called us back to the treatment room.
Brother and I took the chairs between Dad's reclining chair and the window that overlooked the lake, leaving Mom in a chair across the bookshelves.
"Are you pretending you're not with us?" Brother teased her and we formed a semi-circle in front of Dad, staring up at the pre-chemo meds dripping through his IV until the Gemzar arrived and began to drip.
We four stared up at the transparent baggie of fluid hopefully there in the bright room. And glanced around at the other families dealing with varying degrees of illness with us.
We stared at the ducks in the pond outside. Remarked on the weather. Encouraged Dad to take lollipops from the Easter basket for the girls and got Brother a cupcake from a different volunteer. We spoke to the social worker - my parents want neither rides to treatment or free massages. I eagerly awaited our turn with the therapy dog, riding sweetly in his stroller for all to admire and nuzzle at him. And we talked and laughed - Brother and I sharing a similar humor and easiness with self-deprecation.
"Is it burning?" I asked and Dad shook his head and, having finished his juice, sipped at his water.
"Almost done," Mom told him, glancing between the clock and the baggie of fluid.
We panicked when the tube filled with blood - it was just the lack of pressure pushing anything in, they said - but then he was free of the IV and we made our way downstairs and out into the afternoon.
My parents had ordered a new dining room table before Christmas and were thrilled to show me the display at JC Penney until it was delivered. Then the order was cancelled and all my pouting and glares failed to reinstate it. So, after we were home from the hospital with Dad that weekend, I found a similar one online and ordered it.
And - on this hectic of days - it was due to arrive. Brother's girlfriend met the delivery guys so we hurried through construction to see our new furniture.
As we paused at a stoplight, all cars arranged single file, I watched the workers squirt black goo on the pavement over the worst of the cracks, other orange-vested men following it busily with their brushes to fill and coat the damage. I pictured the goo attacking the tumors, shrinking them into nothing inside Dad's belly.
We returned home to the new table, which is perfect in its cozy simplicity, and cooed over how lovely it was. Brother, his girlfriend and I loaded the old one in his truck so he could use it at home. And we all had half sandwiches and fruit before departing for Mom's appointment, the four of us pleased that we'd taken this cancellation and were seeing someone early.
"You'll have to wait a long time," the receptionist warned. "A long, long time - hours," she clarified when we looked at her skeptically.
So we filled in paperwork and settled in to the mostly-empty waiting room.
Mom demanded Brother take Dad home after 45 minutes. Dad refused.
I moved a chair around to put my feet up after an hour. Turned the television up after 90 minutes. Went to get water from the vending machines at 2 hours.
We watched the employees file out between 5 and 6, growing increasingly tired ourselves. My head ached so I took Tylenol from Mom's purse and sighed.
After a little over 3 hours, we grinned upon being called back to a room. Where we waited some more.
My headache returned. Dad shifted uncomfortably, still holding Mom's hand as she leaned forward, resting her head on her knees and begging God to make this end already.
We saw a nurse. Then waited. An assistant. Then waited. And when I opened the exam room door to allow blessedly cool air in, the surgeon finally came.
After a quick exam, we outline treatment option, forming a family chain with our linked hands. Brother to me to Dad to Mom as she sat by the doctor and struggled to focus. I forced my tired brain to focus, memorizing facts and references so I could write it out later.
I called in a take-out order while we waited for the elevator, wincing against my headache as Brother drove us to get it.
I called Aunt on the subsequent drive home.
"It's good," I reported dutifully. "Small invasive ductal carcinoma. They'll take it out and some lymph nodes, though they don't think it's spread. Then they'll do radiation afterward - hopefully partial breast."
"Say it again," Aunt requested and I could hear her shuffling for pen and paper.
"I'll send you an email," I promised. "I'll write it all down for you. But not now - we're so tired. Tomorrow. I'll tell you everything tomorrow."
And I laced my fingers through Mom's as we sat in the backseat, handing her the phone so she could speak to her sister.
We came home and I helped unpack dinner, swallowing more pills as I watched my parents to ensure they ate. I smiled weakly but proudly as they did, wearing my inquisitive expression when they stared at me.
"Aren't you eating? You love this chicken," Mom noted.
"Sick," I explained. "But so proud of both of you. And you," I added for Brother and he grinned easily, lifting his cheek for a kiss before I shuffled down the hall to bed. Mom came to smooth my blankets and turn on the fan so I'd not be too hot. Dad came to kiss my hair and rub my shoulder.
And I lapsed into sleep, drifting pleasantly away from the worries of the world for just a little while.