I am in the waiting room of a laboratory waiting for my sister Gerrie to finish a pet scan. I was told to wait out here because of the exposure to the radioactive dye they are administering to my sister for her test. The technician said it will take about three hours for everything to be done.
It feels as if I have spent most of my life in waiting rooms of hospitals, laboratories and other medical environments. Some families are left legacies of wealth, or perhaps good looks, or perhaps intellectual success. My family’s legacy is a lifetime of health issues. It first started when I was six years old and hospitalized for two months and a day. It seems after numerous tests and five spinal taps they finally realized I had bad tonsils and adenoids and it finally became obvious that the infection caused me to lose the use of my legs. It didn’t help much that they injected me daily,( with what I have not a clue) but after they removed my tonsils and adenoids I was released and a few weeks later I could walk again. Soon after that when I was seven my sister Joan passed away at the age of 29 from complications after removing a tumor from her brain. It has just been downhill ever since. I have lost my parents ten years apart from each other from a myriad of illnesses, cancer included; and two more of my sisters passed at ages 46 and 47 respectively.
My four remaining siblings, two sisters and two brothers all have a long list of health issues that they live with everyday. Being the youngest of eight has placed me in a position that allows me to observe, absorb and live beside every medical issue known to man. Even my own children suffer somewhat and my husband’s family as well. As a matter of fact, if I reflect upon my wealth of knowledge as a designated bystander, my thoughts tell me I could have been either a very informed researcher or a very compassionate doctor. Alas, though, I have missed that boat! Instead I sit here reflecting in my usual waiting position–observing, hoping and praying. My thoughts about Gerrie are concentrated on her life at this moment in time and a veil of concern (mixed with sadness) overcomes me.
Gerrie has never been able to accept illness or poor health without fear. She would much rather remain in her own world where not knowing means everything is good. She has such a disdain for the realities in life that she removes herself from it most of the time by telling carefully woven tales where she is either the heroine or the victim, she does this without any sign of malice and therefore her tales are accepted by most as actual events in her life. I, on the other hand, am a realist who when faced with problems jump right in and research to find the ins and outs of the event, and more so when it deals with health issues. For the most part we get along well and understand exactly where to draw the lines with one another so that our sister relationship remains intact for both of us. We do love one another so it truly isn’t too difficult to manage. Recently, Gerrie has been dealt some really tough blows to deal with. Her husband, Joe’s Alzheimer’s has reached a pivotal stage, one that Gerrie cannot bring herself to believe because she feels better when she doesn’t And her own health is now being threatened at the same time. She fears that she may have cancer and the doctor isn’t ruling it out until these barrage of tests are completed. She has been a complete wreck of nerves lately, worrying in my opinion, needlessly or actually before she knows for certain that this dreaded disease has invaded her body. Naturally, with our gene pool, it is a concern in all of us. Each of us hoping it ended with the generation before us or at the very least with us. It isn’t that I don’t empathize, I do very much so, but I see things mostly as facts and not what ifs. This act of waiting is for me a time to reflect and to hope that my sister is nervous and worried for nothing. At least that way we will be able to joke about it afterward or have another story to listen to from Gerrie.
Guess I’ll just have to wait a little while longer.
And that’s the Way I See It here in Brooklyn.