It’s All About The Sides

“My wife is as tough as a two dollar steak,” one of the men seated in the booth behind me at the Carolina Cafe, said, yesterday.

I had to write that down in my notes.

After I finished my visits to radiology therapy, for a meet and greet, and a consultation and flood test at genetic counseling, which took up the morning, I decided to celebrate.

There were many things to celebrate. Not necessarily the main course of the day, which was that enchilada of a bit of cancer, but the sides … the good part of this adventure in Cancerland.

Traffic was heavy as I drove to Pineville. That is Pineville NC. I live in SC. We live close to the border, so we bop back and forth.

Siri took me to the address. What Siri did let me know was which one of the many buildings I needed to go to.

This was my first trip, alone, in Canceland. Nick had gone with me to the biopsy and surgeon. But he has to work, and I have new glasses so I don’t see three of everything, and can drive!

I will cut to the chase on this part. It took several stops at “guest” desks, to find my way. Hospitals Ana’s medical buildings are mazes.

But on-time, I arrived, chipper to see what was up in radiology.

I am fortunate to be a curious sort. That is how I make the mundane, the scary and the ridiculous, entertaining.

My official radiology therapy doctor was out of town at a breast cancer seminar. So I met a different doctor. But prior to meeting the doctor, I was greeted by a lovely woman who was kind, good, and drats, she made me get on the scale. Could I please have a visit I where I am not asked to get on the scale? And then have my blood pressure taken? Or how about reversing that order?

That is my inner, oh nutmeg, I am gaining weight, again.

Dr. W. ( I use initials to protect privacy), was delightful, patient, informative, and took the time to , “get me.”

Instead of being, “Patient with early stage breast cancer, right breast, big butt,” I was looked at in the eyes and spoken to like a person with a brain.

You know, there are doctors who give you the spiel, while looking at your hairline? You can’t interject or say, you, hoo, I have eyes. I could be your mother.

Dr. W wasn’t like that. And he humored me. I had mentioned to the nurse, that I was a writer. That was in my nervous talk part of the program. I tell people that because I ask a lot of questions, and that explains, why.

We talked breasts and radiation and all of the business I needed to know, and had a delightful time. By then, I was ready to yank my shirt off and give them my good Matt Lauer, line.

There was this little cellophane wrapped half-gown on the bed.

Those things are awful. Talk about making a woman feel less than. They are clumsy and feel alien. You feel alien enough entering medical world, Cancerland.

So, I happened to be wearing lovely scarf. And that is when I, as a 65 year-old woman, said, out of the air, “I think I will just use my scarf.”

Dr. W laughed and said, “Go for it,” (I think he said that).

So, off went my shirt and bra. I flung them across the chair, and draped my scarf around me. It was marvelous! I felt fun and felicity and free. And exposing whatever needed to be exposed, twisted, tweaked, massaged, was easily available.

Ok, so it was just a simple breast exam. The rest was in my head.

But it really worked great and the nurse was super, too. I asked her to take a phot of me and she said, “Really?”

Yep. I did ask her if you could see through the scarf. Didn’t want a wardrobe malfunction.

We bid adieu, and was off to CMC, Charlotte Medical Center, downtown, for genetic testing.

My experience with any type of genetic testing is with 23 and Me. I found out I am English, Irish and a lot of who knows.

This genetic testing is a different ballgame.

I qualified to have the testing done.

The young woman explained how it works, what we are looking for, and how it is done.

I am going to be screened for 42 genes, not just breast cancer screens, but others, that are markers to watch for various other kinds of cancer.

It was very interesting. The geneticist did her post-graduate work at the University of Cincinnati.

They are continuously discovering new genes and mutations and information about cells. She and I talked about that.

In my simplest explanation, Cancer spells are whacked out … bullies, that don’t play nicely with others. Some multiply slowly, and others, rapidly.

I recalled the speed at which my mother’s cancer, leukemia, cells grew and how the doctor, just before she died, said her blood had turned to a sort of sludge. It happened fact.

Both the radiologist and the geneticist said, that that is the nature of some cancer cells. Some are aggressive and some are lazier.

The blood test was easy and will be sent to a lab in San Francisco. It will take about 3-weeks for the results. We wanted to get that done before the surgery, as the results can alter the recommended treatment.

And that is where we get to the “Sides”.

I had to, needed to, be free after that morning. I needed to get back to the person who went to lunch, alone, and stopped out new places and wasn’t in the house, painting, writing or dealing with whatever.

So, I took myself to lunch.

I was seated in a booth behind two men. They might have been in their sixties.

I didn’t see them, really, as my back was to them, but I listened. That is one of my favorite things to do … listen to people in restaurants.

They had the best conversation going. Give and take. squally, one person monopolizes, but not today. They discussed politics, religion and everything that was taboo.

That is where I heard the man say, about his wife, “She’s as tough as a two dollar steak.”

Later in the conversation, during the religion part of the program, the other man said something about him being raised Catholic, and they talked a lot about hell and something to the effect that he thought he was in hell when they talked about hell.

I couldn’t help it. I turned my head in the man’s direction, and said, “I heard that.” And started laughing.

He cracked up. We exchanged a few fun words and I went back to eating.

It was a great conversation and I didn’t have to worry about talking with my mouth full, because I was the silent third person.

When I looked at the menu, prior to ordering, I noticed the long list of side dishes. That is one of the things about the South, that I love. They know their sides. And I love sides. I like them more than the main course.

On the way home, while driving, I thought about sides and main courses and life. I realized that most of the time, it isn’t the main course of what I am involved in, that gives me the most pleasure. It is the sides.

It is the variety, the humble, the road less travelled, the serendipity, that sides sustain me. They bring the joy. The weird and the wonderful.

All I have is gratitude for the people I have recently met, the news I have received and the kindness from you.

And I think I shall have the potato salad, pickled beets and Lima beans.



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