The magic word was “birthday,” but I didn’t know it until it came out of my mouth. An office manager at the radiology center where I’d scheduled my quarterly PET scan was telling me that I couldn’t get it. Something about an insurance company “mix-up” and “more clinical information” and “We’re trying to find your doctor.”
I reminded her that the insurance company had approved the scan the day before, and that my doctor’s office called me to tell me so. I told her how I’d rescheduled the scan because of the ice storm on Wednesday and my insurance company’s delay in approving my scan in the first place. I told her she could put the scan on my credit card and we’d straighten it out later. I wasn’t leaving without my scan. She said that the insurance company wouldn’t allow me to do that. And that’s when I lost it, and blurted out the magic word.
“They approved this yesterday, I drove all the way in here this morning … and it’s my BIRTHDAY!”
Suddenly, her face changed. Everybody in the waiting area stared as she backpedaled, promising I’d get my scan. “I know this is stressful for you,” she assured me. And here I had been trying to pretend it wasn’t. So what if it was my birthday? I told myself. But it bothered me more than I’d thought.
Meanwhile, wonderful birthday wishes were streaming in on my PDA from Facebook and on e-cards. Several people suggested I “do something fun” for my special day. I didn’t have the heart to tell them I was about to be injected with radiation and scanned to see if lymphoma had returned.
An e-mail came in from another non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor who’d befriended me online. I’d asked him how come it took so darn long to diagnose his cancer—six months. “It was March when I went back after I started to cough up blood,” he wrote. “My doctor told me after the CAT scan that he didn’t think it was anything to worry about and that he didn’t think it was cancer. Boy was he wrong.”
By the time I got into the pre-scan room, I was a tad overwhelmed. I sent an e-mail to my friend Robin about the situation. Later, she told me that my message was “brought to you by the letter F.” I told my friend Jenna that I’d wished the radiation they injected into my veins came with a side of Percocet. She agreed that this would be a fine courtesy.
In the scan room, I gave the tech my CD selection for the day: Bruce Springsteen’s Tracks, Disc Two, which I listened to from inside the machine. Turns out, I probably should have reviewed the songs on this disc, because it includes “Take ‘Em As They Come:”
Little girl, gone are birthdays
Faded away into the clear blue night.
Take ‘em as they come, girl
Take ‘em, baby, as they come.
Not exactly “Stairway to Heaven,” but next time, I’m bringing in instrumentals only.
This morning, my oncologist called with the good news. “Jenniferrrrr,” he sang. “All clear.”
Now I can celebrate my birthday the right way.