Early on Tuesday morning, I wrote a good-bye message on the dry-erase board, gathered up the two photos of my kids that I kept in my room, and collected the greeting cards that filled the window sill. I hurriedly ditched the hospital gown and robe, and put on street clothes for the first time in twenty-four days. I then opened my lap-top and settled into the chair next to the bed to review some information about Our Lady of Guadalupe in the silence of the room. My husband was stuck in traffic on the beltway, but thought he would make our 9:00AM departure time. I expected my immunotherapy fellow, and the attending physician to arrive for (my final!) morning rounds within the next few minutes.
As the doctors, and many others, entered the room, they filtered to the very back of the room, where I sat. I had just made a connection between my K-Ras mutation, the date I was confirmed "terminal", and the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe (one of the many titles given to Mary, Mother of Jesus). "That is so cool!" I exclaimed, mostly to myself. Then I asked the flock in general, "My mutation was on codon 12, G12D...is that correct?" Someone agreed that that was accurate. "Amazing! This is amazing! Twelve-twelve!!!" I said, crazy-happy and probably sounding like a lunatic.
Me, addressing the flock: Do you know who 'Our Lady of Guadalupe' is? Anybody? Juan Diego?
Flock: < crickets >
The Guy: Our Lady of...?
The Guy: Our Lady of Guadalupe. No. Never heard of that. And what is the significance of twelve-twelve?
Then he walked around my chair, so that he could see my laptop screen, which displayed a photo of the image that miraculously appeared on Juan Diego's tilma in 1531.
Me: This is an image of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. This image appeared on a peasant man's tilma--cloak...thing. Science has no explanation for how it came to be there, or why it is still there, unchanged to this day. The miracle that happened in Mexico is the reason millions of people converted to Catholicism. GOOGLE IT!
The doctors sort of stared, not knowing, I guess, what to make of my sudden evangelistic outburst.
I continued: "On December 12, I was confirmed terminal. That is also the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe--commemorating Dec. 12, the day the image appeared...and now my mutation has two twelves in it, too! How cool is that?"
Someone from the flock quipped, "She's really Catholic."
We all laughed. (It's funny because it's true.)
The Guy said, "Well. Whatever you're doing, keep it up! We can use all the help we can get!"
Me: Hey, I need a photo.
Uncooperative Attending Physician moves out of frame, joining me at the window sill.
Me: After all I've done for you? You can pose for a picture for me.
He reluctantly joined the others.
The Guy, laughing: Usually it's the other way around. Patients normally tell us what we've done for them.
Me: No one has ever considered me "normal" < click!> blurry! again...! <click!> (This one was only slightly less blurry, but I didn't have the strength to try again. I have a horrible, out-dated phone with an abysmal camera.)
Attending Physician: Don't leave before I say good-bye.
Me: Don't wait to say good-bye until after 9:00, because I will be gone.
We said our good-byes, and they all filtered out. Except one. One of the not-my-attending docs hung back and said, "Don't forget a towel."
Not My Attending Doc: I didn't catch the Mary reference, but the one on the board--that one I got.
On the board I had written:
So long, and thanks for all the fish!
I knew that a life-changing event was just now entering a new phase, but all I could think of at that moment was getting home. There would be ample time for reflecting on it all, later. Patrick arrived just moments after the flock left.
We pulled out of the NIH parking lot at 8:58AM.