Last we spoke I was post thoracentesis and home with a Z-pack. I had that thora on a Friday and by Monday I was running a fever and experiencing chills. Jess wanted me to go to the ER but I resisted. We made a deal that if my temperature rose, in I would go. When it hit 101 that evening I relented. Per Jess’s instructions, I was not to drive myself
Well, my fabulous landlords rose to the occasion and ferried me to MGH—complete with a blanket and a hot water bottle. They also offered to take care of Kumo–for what would turn out to be an extended stay.
The ER. First they took my temp with one of those little wand-y things, which said I had no fever. It would take another 36 hours for someone to stick a digital thermometer in my mouth and for all to realize that I still had a fever of 101+. If you have a wand-y thing (they screen for COVID with those), throw it out. Piece of shit.
As an oncology patient, I was paid a certain degree of deference. Which meant my own private glass cubicle. But I, like everyone else, had a gurney and no pillow.
Going to the bathroom was a trip. The further you went down the hall, the more it resembled skid row, with gurneys lining the halls (addicts, drunks, psych evals) and people sitting in chairs like hall monitors. Which they essentially were.
‘It would be my unfortune (not a word, but let’s make it one) to spend almost 24 hours in that ER. The nursing staff was exemplary. But the slice of humanity—it’s hard y’all. I saw some guy’s junk (I was on the phone with my friend Annie who said ‘don’t tell a lesbian that!). I was bombarded by bells. Some woman came in screaming ‘don’t you shoot me with that fucking epipen–you killed my kid, I’m going to sue you all’ and so on. Ten minutes later she was quiet and when my nurse came in I commented on that fact. ‘She had some help’ he said. ‘And that’s what she was screaming about’ I replied to which he responded ‘And that’s what happens when you spit on somebody.’
Another of my fellows came in with a police escort of at least seven officers. A big city emergency room is, quite simply, a portal to hell.
When I was admitted, it was to a room with a roommate. In short, a hospital is no place to heal.
However, my situation was such that I needed to be stabilized. A complex cocktail of intravenous antibiotics. A second thoracentesis. Discussion as to the fact that if my fever did not abate, we might need to attribute it to my cancer—which remained so obscured by pneumonia and the pleural effusion—it could not be assessed.
It was a scary time. A time of difficult possibilities and discussion around whether or not these were in fact probabilities.
And of course, the demands of life continued. I needed to vacate my studio. Stat. And now physically impossible. I called Annie–said I needed a project manager. She—without hesitation—agreed. I then sent out an email to some of my closest friends and my youngest son. While I was in hospital, Annie drove two hours to my house, got the key to my apartment from my landlord, and then met my friend Marc at my studio to start packing. The next day they were joined by Brian, Chi and Susan.
My son Peter had the task of bringing me home from the hospital on Saturday, but on Sunday he joined those assembled. And this marvelous crew both packed up and moved most of the contents of my studio. Unflipping believable.
Of course, there were other matters to attend to. Melinda and Diane tag teamed. Once I was released, Melinda and our friend Amy came to my house to cook but also to help me tie up some important loose ends. My will. ( a visit to the notary). Taxes paid. A spread sheet created for my bills and passwords. Power of attorney to Melinda–as well as giving her access to my bank accounts. And then Melinda went above and beyond–looping in with my financial advisor to help me manage assets.
There are still things to attend to. Copies of keys, arrangements as to how I’d prefer to die and where my body shall go (research) once I do.
Sobering. This head on confrontation with mortality. But also incredibly comforting–wrapping things up. Of course, I still hope this is all a little premature. However, my eyes are wide open. Stage IV lung cancer, a massive pleural effusion and pneumonia are all indicators of a body that is struggling. Tomorrow I have another chest CT and will meet with Jess. It is likely my left lung will be drained again and possible that a PleurX catheter will have to be installed. Once it’s a tad drier in there, we can figure out what’s been going on with my cancer. And make some choices as to how to move forward.