Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


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No Steamer Trunk or Man Servants Needed

Before my husband, David, was officially admitted to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston for treatment for AML (Acute Myeloid Leukemia), his doctor said, “You’ll like the rooms. They’re quite nice.”

Even the nurse doing the pre-admission test agreed. “The doctor’s right. You can decorate any way you want, too.”

That’s all I needed to hear before I started packing everything he and I would need to make it a home away from home. Not that I was silly enough to imagine the Ritz Carleton, but I did wonder whether the style would be more Marriott or more Hampton Inn. Didn’t matter; I was sure I could work with either.

When David realized my intentions, he eliminated the second suitcase and scaled down from an extra large to a medium. By the time he was through, we could have used the small one but for his size 15 slippers.

“I’m going to the hospital,” he said, “not on a fancy cruise. I don’t want to walk in with a steamer trunk and two man servants, saying ‘Nurse! Show me to my stateroom!'”

Davd and Man Servants

I’ve gotta say the medical staff’s idea of a “nice room” is a bit different than what I had envisioned. Everything is white, off white, or gray. Not a pop of color anywhere. Unless you count the red blood cells bag hanging on the rolling pole—which I do count, but not as décor.

I played with the idea of asking my friend (who’d made my matching toaster and mixer covers) to make some stylish covers to hide those unattractive, beeping machines attached to the IV poles. Maybe some throw pillows would be nice. Dumb ideas, I know, but these are the things you think about when you don’t know what to do when someone you love is sick. (Okay, these may be the things I think of, not you.)

Pop & FloSince my husband isn’t allowed to receive flowers, I offered to hang his get well cards up around the room to make it more cheery. He was not interested. Instead he keeps them stacked nearby on a bench near his (white) paper towels. When he wasn’t looking, I was able to rearrange his Pop Tart boxes and Flonase package on his dorm fridge to give the space more color and balance.

Instead of me taking care of David, it’s still the other way around. It took me a few weeks to feel comfortable driving into the city and finding the parking garage. He instructed me on the simplest route, and I’ve stuck with it. I pray daily, “Get thee behind me detours!”Detours

Since I get to park free in the Dana-Farber garage, I have to traverse the maze of additions, bridges, and hallways that connect to Brigham and Women’s.  For the first two weeks, I got lost every day.   Thankfully, I’ve been blessed with a natural dumb look, which alerts security I’m in need. “May I help you?” Presto! I’d be pointed in the right direction! (I’m gonna use that look more often.)

Finally, it was David (the guy who’d been wheeled in on his back on a gurney) who searched online for maps of both hospitals, overlaid and spliced them together, and drew red arrows from one place to the other. When even that seemed overwhelming for me, he gave me a simplified cheat sheet to help me on my way in and another one for my way out. It’s been three weeks now, and I still cheat.

My sense of direction isn’t my only deficiency. It’s the little things I have to remember now because he isn’t with me. The first night back from Boston, I locked myself out of the house. Fortunately, David had thought in advance to give my neighbors a key. More than once, I’ve gone to bed with the TV on because it was his job to shut it off. And, if I wanted a working radio and CD player on my trips to visit, I had to learn to drive the Venza, since that was “David’s car.”

[Speaking of the Venza, did you know you can’t put a desiel hose in its gas tank? I tried, I really did. Those gas station pump people are pretty smart, I tell ya.]

When I thought I lost the Venza fob (keyless thingamabob), David called valet parking and asked them to search for it. In the light of day, I found the little bugger. It had blended into the black-carpeted floor of the car—along with the black gloves and black earmuffs I thought I’d lost the week before. He also apologized to them for me.

And, as you may have guessed, I needed David to do the Photoshop job of himself in actor Michael York’s ensemble from Murder on the Orient Express, and the one of our friend, Jeremiah Peters, as one of his man servants.

I’m all set now because I have a list which I review before I leave the house:

  • David’s clean laundry Check!
  • David’s snacks Check!
  • Lunch for me Check!
  • Phones – both my old dumb one and my new smart one (which I don’t know how to use yet) Check!
  • Fob Check!
  • Sunglasses Check!
  • Electronic parking pass (which I wave randomly at anything bolted to the concrete wall until the gate goes up) Check!
  • Cheat sheet Check!
  • House keys Check!

Before I headed out yesterday, I mentally reviewed my list. Satisfied I had everything on it, I opened the door and stepped into the garage. Something didn’t feel right. I looked down.

I was in my stocking feet.

On a more serious note, even though the effects of chemo are extremely unpleasant, David is coping well emotionally and spiritually. He says of his time in the hospital, “I liken it to my stint in the Navy. I’ll follow orders and do my time until I get discharged.”

As for me, I prefer not to compare David’s hospital stay with his time in the Navy. Why? They kept him for four years! Can you imagine the damage I’d do in that time?

Car in parking garage

Thanks for your well wishes and prayers! Shalom. 

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. ~ 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. ~ Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)

 


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Sorry, the New Year You Ordered Is Out of Stock

113265_maxWe’ve had a shock of sorts over the past few days concerning my husband David’s health. Last Friday we saw an oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

DOCTOR, looking at David: “You’re in good health other than the Acute Myeloid Leukemia.”
ME and denial trying to ignore his diagnosis: “It’s January. Why is he talking about a cute Hawaiian Christmas song?”

The doctor followed his pronouncement with a long and detailed explanation of this type of cancer and the treatment to follow, which would require a six-week stay at Brigham and Women’s (Dana-Farber’s in-patient hospital) in Boston.

I tried to listen carefully, but I kept getting hung up on the last thing he said, thereby missing the next. He had questions for my husband too.

DOCTOR: “Do you take any medications?”
DAVID named a single medication then seemed to hesitate.
ME, thinking it was a good time to step in to help. “You take Percocet in the morning too.”
DOCTOR, brow furrowed: “Percocet?”
DAVID, smiling and shaking his head: “No, my wife means Prilosec, but I switched to . . .”
ME, jumping in to correct my faux pas: “Oh, that’s right, it’s Xanax.”
DOCTOR, now eyes wide open: “You’re on Xanax?”
DAVID, patting my hand. “Please ignore my bride. It’s Zantac for heartburn.”

I decided my helping might not help that much.

DOCTOR: “I’m not going to admit you today. I’ll give you five days to prepare things at home. Here’s an order for more blood work for Monday.” Then leading us over to the lab, he said, “Before you leave, I’d like a bone marrow sample.”
DAVID, quivering: “That’s the one thing I’ve been dreading.”
DOCTOR: “Ask the nurse for some Ativan to relax you. But if you take it, you can’t drive home.”
ME, thinking, but not saying: “That means I will have to drive home. How on earth will I find my way OUT of the city when I can’t find my way IN?”

The bad news was he took the Ativan. The good news was he was on Ativan when I drove home.

The next day . . .

01990ME to DAVID, after posting a professorial-looking photo of David on our family Facebook page to let them all know: “What do you think?”zztop
DAVID, after seeing it: “I think it makes me look venerable. Now everyone’s going to feel they have to say nice things about me.”

He countered my picture choice by posting this much less reputable-looking one with the help of Photoshop.

Getting ready . . .

My 5-day preparedness list looked something like this:

  • Contact everyone and ask them to pray.
  • Make sure David gets the seafood and Chinese food he’s been craving.
  • Buy him snacks.
  • Buy him new underwear and PJ bottoms—and make sure his tee shirts and fleece tops match.
  • Buy size 15 slippers–once I figure out where to find them.

When I found the flannel PJ bottoms, David thought he would need x-large instead of large. I bought one large and two x-large. I washed the large and they shrank sink inches, making them look like plaid capri pants. When he tried on the x-large, it looked like he could synchronize swim in them with two of his friends.

ME, looking at him in the x-large pants: “You can’t wear those to the hospital. You’ll look like a . . . “

DAVID, pulling the elastic waistline out a good foot: “Like a what? A cancer patient?”

I returned the PJs and we found some that were NOT 100% cotton to avoid shrinkage. We tried four stores before we found slippers big enough.

David’s 5-day preparedness list looked something like this:

  • Show Clarice how to access online bank account to pay bills.
  • Show Clarice where the water shut-off and water heater controls are.
  • Show Clarice how to contact Tech Support and Comcast.
  • Show Clarice how to get to Netflix. Cancel Netflix DVDs because she doesn’t know how to open the envelope right or even use the DVD player.
  • Show Clarice where the generator is case of a power failure. Then make her promise not to touch it, but go directly to a hotel.
  • Show Clarice how to drive the Venza we’ve owned for three years.
  • Show Clarice how to use the smart phone we just bought her.
Thinking things through . . .

When discussing how he’d feel once the chemotherapy started, I told David not to hesitate to tell people if he was too tired and needed rest. [During her time as a cancer patient, our friend Kellie used to say, “That Cancer Card can come in pretty handy when I don’t feel like doing something.”]

cancercardME, when I learned David had a long call to make that night: “This might be a good time to play that Cancer Card.”

DAVID, shaking his head: “You never want to open with trump.”

ME, later while thinking about the doctor’s order for more blood work: “They took seven vials of blood from you on Friday. Why do you think the doctor wants you to have more blood work done on Monday?”

DAVID, looking at me over the top of his eyeglasses: “Could it be ’cause you told him I was on Percocet and Xanax?”

See why I want this guy to get well? He not only makes my life better, he makes me laugh while doing it.

The doctor is optimistic David will achieve remission because they caught it early. When the six weeks are over, further treatment will be determined.

Here’s the tee shirt he plans to wear when it gets to that point.

i_came_i_saw_i_want_to_go_home_tshirt-rd73d97489d6840a5b83d8e7674dc5dfd_804gs_324

Latin for “I came, I saw, I want to go home.”

Until then, we’ll keep the faith, keep laughing, and covet your prayers. Thanks.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress my God, in whom I trust.” ~ Psalm 91:1-2 (NIV)