Nov 11

Back To Detroit

The doc’s next plan was to get me roadworthy to make a trip from Knoxville, TN where I was working to Detroit, MI, where I’m from. He basically explained it like this: My working days are over till I get healthy enough to think about work again. Could be months or a year or even more, depending on how my cancer progresses, how I respond to the treatments, etc. Meanwhile, this is going to be something I cannot deal with on my own in Knoxville by myself. I will NEED to be around family, I will NEED their help, they’re all in the Detroit area, and I have no choice but to go there to start my treatments (whatever they will turn out to be) or cash in my chips. He wasn’t quite that blunt, but he got his point across.

They’d been telling me all along that I need to call my family in Detroit to tell them I was in the hospital, deathly ill, but I refused to do so until they could tell me what was wrong or that I would need a casket fitting. I just couldn’t call home and say, “I’m dying and they don’t know why – I’ll let you know as soon as I find out anything more.” I knew that would just cause a big panic and I didn’t want that. So I held back on informing anyone till I could get a better handle on what to say. I wanted to be able to say something positive.

So, finally informed, I made the phone calls. I got cancer, but it’s a kind that people live with for lots of years of nearly normal lives, and I will too. I’m very healthy except for the cancer, so this is going to be relatively easy. I’m not very old yet, so this is something that I can get through. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine, and I’m coming home so you can all help me lick this thing.

My sister Trudy immediately rushed to Knoxville to see me. Then she loaded up my whole house and moved it to Detroit by U-Haul that broke down along the freeway and she had to go through an ordeal with that where U-Haul thought the truck was stolen or something… I dunno, but there’s definitely a country song in there somewhere I need to get around to writing one of these days.

By the time she got back a few days later, our sister Candy was with her and I had been out of the hospital about an hour or two when they all pulled in my driveway to take my computer and me to Detroit. I had taken a cab from the hospital to the house, and was real happy to just be out of that hospital bed and outside after some 10 or 11 days of hell I’d just been though with all the prodding and poking and testing and blood draws and so forth.

Physically, I was a wretched wreck. I was swollen from my chest down to my toes like some really weird, huge, bloated cartoon. It was all fluid and I was told it was from the heavy doses of steroids they’d given me to get my appetite and strength up enough to make the trip. I’d been lying in bed for nearly a month, so my muscles were all atrophied and nearly useless. I could barely move my legs at all.

My belly had swelled in the hospital from it’s normal 38 to 40 inches to a whopping 47 inches plus. I was 10 months pregnant to a bouncing baby, fully ripe Georgia watermelon, or so it seemed. It was all fluid, but it was all skinned very tight, like a drum. On top of that, everything from the waist down to my toes was swelled up equally to fit the image of that belly.

My sisters pried my swollen feet into my unlaced and stretched open shoes. I could barely walk at all, tottering from one leg over to the other slowly and methodically. It was all I could do in the hospital to get out of bed with someone’s help every time. Now it was the same way just getting up from a sitting position. I needed someone to pull me to my feet each time.

I insisted that we all go to my favorite restaurant for my favorite meal on me before we set out for Detroit, and that’s what we did. We went to Hops and I made Candy have my favorite meal along with me, Filet Mignon, because she’d never tried it before. The salads were perfect, the honey buns were divine, the microbrewery root beer and Trudy’s Clearwater Light beer were fantastic, and of course the main course was exquisite. It was a meal that couldn’t be beat, and I felt that no matter what happened along the road from that point, at least I’d had that one last perfect repast to remember and see me though.

We made a couple of rest stops along the way for bathroom, food and drink. At the very first, I could no longer get my shoes on my feet because they’d swollen too much by then. So I went barefoot. I remember it was chilly out, but I couldn’t feel anything from my feet. Not even the ground that I knew had to be pretty cold. I wrestled with the walks to the bathrooms; each step was a task to be overcome, each trip was a trek to be conquered.

By the time we got to Detroit, I was in pretty weak shape again. Big, bloated, rubbery looking legs, feet and toes were simply balloons that looked ready to pop if I made a wrong step on them with too much weight, and by now they were all bigger than they’d ever been and about as useless as a screen door on a submarine.

I don’t even remember how I got up the stairs and into the house. All I knew was that I could finally rest again. I made the best of it. I told everyone I felt good, even though they could tell I was beat to death. The truth was: I DID feel good. I was alive, out of the hospital and home – really home – in the house I moved into when I was 2 years old and grew up in. This was the best I’d felt, mentally, in over a month. And even though I was a physical wreck, I wasn’t in a hospital bed wondering if I’d see the next morning. It truly felt good.