It’s been about two years since I was diagnosed with cancer, and a year plus since I finished chemo and radiation.
One of the unseen consequences of the treatment was, drawing blood has become difficult. My veins seem to shrink from the needles as much as I do emotionally from the prospect of being stuck by them.
I know the tricks for getting a good blood draw. Drink lots of water. Relax and take deep slow breaths. Shut your eyes but keep talking to keep yourself distracted. Last but not least, offer the pain and irritation up as a prayer for someone. I do all these things.
However I still complain to the IV nurse everytime I need to give a sample. It’s kind of a stand up bit at this point, because you’d think a person who weathered three tracheostomies, (one under local), and ten pregnancies and cancer and chemo would not be flumoxed or stressed out by a needle. When they put that plastic tourniquet on my wrist, I morph into an six year old, wanting a bribe from my mom for putting up with this kind of thing.
The story goes, I needed a shot and it would be a painful one. I’d been through a lot of doctor visits and I announced to the waiting room, that I didn’t want a shot. After a long rational discussion about the necessity that got nowhere, Mom asked what it would take for me to be brave while getting my shot.
I thought for a few minutes and said, “A Spirograph.” and marched into the doctor’s office declaring I would be, “Spirograph brave.”
I got that thing and remember the pins with the green balls on top, and the red box and the cardboard we used to puncture the paper and hold the big wheels in place. Armed with a red, black and blue bic pen, I spent hours in six year old art heaven as a result of my purgatory shot.
Maybe the current problem is, no one is offering me a Spirograph. It’s the only explantion I have for my regular freak outs over this kind of thing.
Which brings us to this morning. I drove to the lab. The IV nurse and I exchanged pleasantries as she prepared to milk my vein for a sample. I told her my jokes but I also complained. She shared that she’s fine drawing blood but when someone else does it to her, she passes out. We laughed. I also told her that every needle, every piercing I get, is for my son that is an adult, and is a a prayer. It’s something I’ve adopted since I started chemo. I remember Mary, the Blessed Mother, and her heart was pierced, just as surely as her son’s side was pierced. So every pierce, is a prayer for him.
Five minutes later, a different nurse called me back as I prepared to leave. “We need a little more.” and I thought, “Guess he needs another prayer.” and we did the whole procedure again. The other IV nurse apologized but I felt an odd peace about all of it. It had been about three months of flailing to put together words without a serious wrestling of the brain.
My prayer life has likewise struggled these past few months. The Legion of Mary came and brought the statue of the Blessed Mother to visit for two weeks. I felt like she was here to help me get back on track. Writing and prayer have always gone hand in hand for me, since I started getting serious about it in 2006.
Mary helped me begin to pray more regularly –haltingly, but there and deliberate.
In writing, the process is called opening a vein. Maybe my creative juices had likewise suffered from the post-trauma of chemo and radiation, and opted to be sluggish for the same reasons. That evening, at physical therapy, I talked with the specialist about writing, and what makes the difference between an amature and a professional –was not waiting until inspiration hit, but working through whatever it was anyway. My own words pushed against my recent refusal even to open the page to write. I’d been acting like an amature and had the lack of writing to prove it.
My daughter likewise chastised me in the car as we drove to Target, “Write junk.” “Scribble words.” She’s an artist and will scribble when no inspiration tickles her fingers into creating something. So it’s here, all that happened…all poured out onto the page just like the blood. I realized, for some reason as of late, with writing, I’d been afraid.
I needed to be brave. The words came, haltingly, but there and deliberate. It felt like a damn breaking.
Now, where’s my Spirograph?