Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It's Hard to Say Goodbye

The other day, my doctor informed me that she will be leaving Columbia in order to assume a more prestigious position at another hospital in the city. Honestly, though the news was unanticipated and came as a shock to me, my initial reaction was to be happy for her. She has worked her entire life to get to where she is now, and I should be nothing but supportive of her achieving success. I've known her only a few short months, anyway, so it seems that it would be selfish of me to expect my agenda to compete with her lifelong dreams.

She won't actually be leaving Columbia for another month or so, but she did ask me to go with her to the new hospital soon after she makes the move. The new place is all the way downtown on the east side of the city, which is considerably more difficult for me to reach than is Columbia. In fact, the duration of the drive would likely double in time at the very least, making an already dizzying car ride even more difficult in both directions. When I need to come in for a meeting, or to have blood taken in advance of chemo, or when I'm coming in for chemo and subsequently leaving chemo, every car ride that already makes me all shook up inside would be even worse. And that's not even to mention those wonderful, though infrequent occasions when I have to go to the E.R. for some reason or another, in which case I'll probably be in a hurry, but inevitably at the mercy of the ever-unpredictable FDR Drive.

Then I have to consider my nurses at Columbia, who sent me a birthday card and gift, and always come to see me even if they're not on shift but notice that I'm around. Don't get me wrong, my doctor is without question the quarterback of this whole endeavor, and the reason I'm writing this in the first place is to express the loss I'm feeling due to the idea of her not being around. But once I'm checked into the hospital for treatment and my doctor has given her scripts and chemo orders, it's up to the nurses to carry out the plan, and I trust them fully. And, if you remember, they are the friendly faces I look forward to seeing to ease the transition from upright to bedridden and drug-infused.

The more I think about it, though, it's no easier to accept. My doctor has been a stabilizing force since those first, most fearful days when my diagnosis was a mystery and my entire future was in considerable doubt. At the risk of employing another hardly necessary analogy, she took the keys to the RV into which all of my family and friends packed themselves along with their panic and dreams of a miracle, and my doctor began to navigate us along the path that will hopefully lead us to the promised land of remission.

I don't doubt the credentials or ability of this new doctor I've been given to fulfill her responsibilities with regards to my treatment. Things just seem to be going so well right now, it's hard to imagine doing the rest of it without my doctor. When they're about to put me under for my eleventh and twelfth Bone Marrow Biopsies, I just wish it could be her telling me that she'll be there the whole time and that she'll still be there when I wake up.

I know that you can't really predict these things, and that you have to be ready to take advantage of great opportunities when they present themselves, but why does it have to be right now?

If my doctor leaves Columbia in a month, takes a few weeks to get her feet grounded in her new environment, and then asks me to join her there, I'll be at least two or three treatments ahead of where I am now, which leaves (hopefully) only a few remaining between me and the finish line. And at my hospital I know the routine; I know what to expect when I check in for chemo, and we humans are creatures of habit. I also know that at Columbia, the doctors work together, abandon their egos, and I'd like to believe that my doctor will remain relevant in my treatment until the very end.

I don't know how things are done over at the other hospital, though I know that after each chemo treatment I would have to walk a few blocks to some lodge where the amenities would be nicer than they are at the hospital, but the time it would take to get post-chemo hydration or transfusions hooked up again after a walk that sounds like it could be nothing but unpleasant after a day of chemo are not quite reassuring notions. Again, I just wish this weren't happening right now. But if it's not going to be me, then some other patient will have to deal with it, which isn't necessarily better, just easier for me.

At this point, I'm slightly more than cautiously optimistic that I can emerge victorious from this whole thing. Ideally, if and when that day comes, my doctor would be there to share in the joy with me and my family. I would pick her up, spin her around, and maybe we'd all go get a drink somewhere. I'm not saying she won't be there, either, or that her role in this process is finished, or even overly diminished, at least I sincerely hope not, but I have to be realistic about the fact that she probably isn't going to be around very much. Her input will arrive from a distance, and I'll welcome it, though I'll miss her reassuring smile, but that's the way it's going to be. And when this is over, I'll need a doctor for meetings and scans and maybe even the occasional Bone Marrow Biopsy, so you never really know what could happen.

People come and go from our lives, circumstances change when we least expect them to, and sometimes it's when we most want them to just stay the same for a little while longer. I know that these are things I've said before, and probably will again before my days are through, but it never seems to get any easier. Things around me are changing; people, the weather, and all I can do is try and hold onto any order and sanity I can get my hands on. I guess that's why I'll probably stick it out at Columbia, as long as my treatment continues to go well. But I'm going to miss her, that's for sure, and it'll be damn hard to say goodbye.