I wandered down the hallways of the hospital, searching for her room. Arrows pointed in different directions and I had to pause to figure out how to find my friend. While continuing to follow the arrows I came upon a startling sign hanging across two double doors, Oncology Ward. In front of the double doors was a stand of masks, I automatically reached for one, crumbling it in my hand.
Wandering brought back memories of that spooky cellar on the farm. When my brother, sister and I got up the courage, Dennis would lift the old heavy cellar door while Dee and I propped it open with a large stick. Together we slithered down the side of the steps hugging the wall opposite the creepy cob webs that hung in the corners. Our imaginations were wild, and we were ready to explore. The old rickety shelves along the wall were filled with jars of canned fruit beyond the edible stage with brownish green stuff growing on top. Scattered in the floor were half eaten boxes of rat poison.
Boni and I are retired nurses and life-long friends. She is a snowbird and came to Arizona to spend the winter. It was time for us to pick up where we left off some sixty years ago and enjoy the friendship we shared when we lived three miles apart playing on Kansas farms. A God-incidence was again we only lived three miles apart. We started to fill our calendars with fun things to do.
The desert storm was unexpected and interrupted our senior age fun. Suddenly Boni was rushed to the hospital. Like children exploring the old cellar together the medical team continued to work together running tests on Boni. It sounded as though they were searching every organ in her body, just like we searched every nook and cranny in the old spooky cellar. Boni didn’t realize there were storms in Arizona, but she was beginning her monsoon season in the desert.
I remember fearing the Kansas storms. It was around 1953. We were having fun riding our tricycles down the old cellar door when the sky got dark and I heard a loud crack of thunder, I could see Dad down by the barn looking at the sky. Suddenly Mom rushed outside, “Hurry up kids! A storm is coming. We need to go to the cellar.” The wind picked up and a cloud of rotating dust and debris crossed the barn yard as the sky quickly turned darker and Daddy faded out of site.
I didn’t want to go down that creepy cellar. I wanted the security of my Daddy. Grabbing our hands Mom quickly drug us down the dark dingy steps and closed the cellar door. We three kids huddled in the corner behind the cream separator and waited…
Finally finding her room, I smoothed out the crumbled mask and put it on my face. Knocking hesitantly on her door I slowly opened it and saw her brother Terrill standing at the foot of her bed. In a whispered voice he told me, “She has pancreatic cancer.” I looked into his eyes and he was fighting back tears but trying to be strong. The only sound was heart monitors and IV’s alarming that the nurses at the station never seemed to hear.
The room was cluttered with IV poles, monitors and a curtain pulled that made the room even smaller only to hide an empty bed. Everything was sterile and white except for the turquoise and brown prayer quilt that Boni was clutching around her neck. Fighting back tears, I squeezed between the equipment to give my friend a hug. I needed to feel her arms around me.
Boni was facing the biggest storm of her life with a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and a scary whipple surgery. I wondered what they would find? Would those cancer cells be growing like the monstrous stuff in the fruit jars destroying all the good cells in sight? I thought about the half-eaten boxes of rat poison. Will they infuse her body with poison?
Mom screamed and gathered us kids, so we would be safe in the basement.
We shouted out Boni’s Facebook friends scattered from East to West Coast and even in Canada. We asked for prayers and for Boni to remain calm, and we prayed for wisdom for the medical team during her surgery.
Suddenly the door opened; the wind blew, and Daddy came down the steps. I ran to him, begging him to help me take all my animal friends to the cellar. I wanted everything I loved to be safe. I crawled on his lap and felt his arms around me. Together we waited until the storm was over.
Boni was started on oral and IV chemo treatments causing chaos. She set multiple timers as a reminder of what she needed to do. Alarms were always going off, as she paused and tried to remember what the timer was for. She needed an alarm to wake up, feed herself before taking oral chemo at 6:30 am. Her dog Emmi had to be fed and given insulin shots twice a day. She and Norm were living at Mesa Spirit, a RV park landscaped with rocks. She had to drive Emmi to the dog park several times a day as the pavement during the summer was too hot to walk her.
She was exhausted and many days slept in the chair awaiting the next alarm. She would go to bed early only to have the alarm go off at ten p.m.to check her blood sugar and give herself insulin from a sliding scale. Throughout the week she had appointments with her primary care doctor, endocrinologist, oncologist and Emmi’s veterinarian, plus the appointments that Norm needed to go to.
After about five months of treatment, she had another CT Scan. She was thrilled when it came back, “No cancer detected!” We hugged and laughed and cried. Was the storm over?
Dad took my hand and we walked up the cellar stairs. Our collies came running to greet us doing their happy dog dance. The air smelled clean and there was a rainbow in the sky. I walked with Dad not wanting to let go of his hand. He was looking around the farm to see what damage was done.
“Daddy, is there going to be another storm?”
“Some day probably. These storms seem to go in cycles jumping around.” Looking at damaged crops, he said, “I hope this kind of storm will never return. Don’t worry about another storm today.”