You Never Know When a Flashback Will Sneak Up on You

A flashback to my time in a hospital room made me wonder, how far out do you have to be to keep from having unwelcome reminders of your treatment?

I think the answer is this: You’re never too far out to be surprised by something that brings you back.

Judging from my timetable of being 10 years past my fourth stem cell transplant, for acute myeloid leukemia, the memories fade in intensity. They are accompanied less by fear and more by just a queasy feeling. I shouldn’t say “just” a queasy feeling, because the qualifier diminishes it. However, it feels less troublesome than the panic that comes with being closer to treatment and fearing, when you are reminded of it, that you could have to go back and do it all over again. In other words, fear of relapse recedes with each passing year.

The most unexpected thing took me back to the days when I spent weeks at a time receiving chemotherapy at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and the period after my last transplant when I was hospitalized for three and a half months.

Remembering the uncomfortable hospital rooms

I went to a nice hotel for the wedding of a dear friend’s son. When I checked into my room, I realized the vent was blowing cold air. Since this was October, I didn’t need the air conditioner on. When I turned the thermostat up, the vent blew hot air. Either way, it was uncomfortable.

It made me think of the ill-positioned heating and cooling vents at the hospital. They were right over the bed. So when I was dealing with such chemotherapy side effects as mouth sores and high fevers, I also had to deal with air blowing on and off of me. In a couple of rooms where I spent time, a nurse or attendant would come in and move the bed for me. I remember that in one room, the bed ended up at a strange angle. At least I didn’t have air blowing on me.

This was a constant in all the rooms. Some rooms were better than others, not in terms of air blowing, but in terms of other qualities. You mostly have to take what you get when a bed opens, but one room that they put me into seemed so unlivable that my sister went and found someone to get me out of there as soon as possible. The window looked out onto a brick wall. I panicked. I felt so claustrophobic. Within a day, nurses helped me move across the hall when a room opened.

Thankful for where I'm at now

When I wrote this, we were in between activities for the wedding weekend. We walked on a beautiful trail in a park, along a stream with small waterfalls and I alternated walking with some jogging. My phone said that towards the end of the day, I had gone 7.2 miles, or 14,824 steps. We didn't go that far on the trail. The hotel is pretty big, so I must have added steps by going from room to room, and upstairs and downstairs.

I’m looking out at a beautiful mountain vista. I’m grateful for the nice view and for it not being out of a hospital window, and for being able to walk in the outdoors instead of around the pod or in hospital corridors.

Even if the heating and cooling system is a little funky.

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