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July 4, 2011: Three Cups of Cancer, To Go

The only thing we have learned to expect these days is the unexpected. Here we thought we would have a “day off” and I even planned to get a little work done.

That’s when the doctor called and asked us to come in for a “quick” procedure. Now, I have learned that words like “quick” have different meanings when it comes to hospitals. Here we were figuring we would swoop in to the hospital, do this procedure and continue with our day. Not exactly.

When you hear phrases like “ten minutes” in a hospital, the actual meaning might be “an hour.” It might be “three hours.” And it might even mean “all day.” The only thing it will most definitely NOT mean is “ten minutes.”

So after the procedure (which I will get to in a minute,) we were shown to a small room with a bed and a chair (you can guess which one I got) where we waited for “observation.” This was an ideal situation for my new iPhone. Or it would have been… if I had remembered to keep the battery charged.

Without the Internet, magazines, or any distractions (admittedly poor planning on my part), the whole process was about as much fun as taking a long flight that goes nowhere and has no movies. The only thing to do is try and get some sleep in a chair (and play with the blood pressure machine until the nurse caught me and scolded me.)

By the way, another concept related to hospitals that makes no sense is food. I am firmly convinced that the entire Israeli socialized medical system is being subsidized by the sale of tuna sandwiches in the cafeteria. The price of the tuna, the pie, even the ice coffee bears no understandable relation to the cost of the food. Eating anything at the hospital makes even the food at airports seem both tasty and reasonably priced.

But I digress.

They wanted to take some fluid from Stella’s abdomen (I know, I know, TMI — but that part is crucial to the story.) The good news is that a CT scan showed the cancer had not spread to her chest and now they just have to make sure it is not creeping up elsewhere. So after the procedure we had what I think (and hope) is an “only in Israel” experience.

The nurse came out of the procedure room and handed us what looked like several cups of take out (take away for Israelis) chicken soup for Shabbat. When I asked her what exactly we were supposed to do with a few cups of cancer, she said that we had to find our doctor and give the soup to him. Of course when we took the rather nasty containers up to the floor our doctor was on, we did not see him. We did see a big crowd of people hollering for attention at the reception desk.

So I took the special packages from Stella (who is a bit more shy than myself) and pushed my way up to the front of the desk. I set them down in front of everyone and boldly declared “This is the fluid from my wife’s abdomen. Our doctor wants it.”

That seemed to do the trick. The crowd backed a way a few steps and piped down.

So now we are waiting for them to sample the soup so we can move on to the next step on this journey.

Throughout everything, Stella still smiles and thanks every doctor, nurse, and orderly. She is still feeling alright and taking her famous six A.M. walks with the dog. I can never feel too depressed when she gives me her sweet smile with the sparkle in her eyes. If you know Stella, I’m sure you know the look I’m talking about.

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