Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wiley Gipp

Nine hours at the hospital yesterday, most of it spent waiting. Blood draws, x-rays, CT scans. It's hard to get frustrated at the wait, the staff is so polite and apologetic. And they are doing important work--take as long as necessary to get it right, folks. It doesn't bother me, it takes more than that. I didn't have anywhere to be that day, anyway. Most patients don't seem to get annoyed, only a few.

Wiley Gipp (his real name) was a little frustrated as we waited in the CT check-in area, but even he was polite about it. He had a big Texas accent and a big black cowboy hat, tight jeans, an honest to goodness cowboy shirt (you know, with the bold curly stitching and pockets with snaps) and cowboy boots. Small belt buckle. No, just kidding--a huge belt buckle with some big piece of stone on it. Wiley Gipp. Freaking awesome name for a cowboy. Wirey, strong looking dude, he probably could have kicked my ass. I'd bet he was about 65 years old, or a young 70. He liked the umbrella in my banana barium drink.

I have noticed that some Texans have no volume control on their voice. Only "off" or "10." Probably unfair to limit that to Texans.

As usual, I spent most of my waiting time yesterday watching other people, like Wiley Gipp. Very few younger (42 or below, let's say) people. One young guy sleeping with his headphones and facemask on (repressed immune system). There was a perky mom helping her young kid with homework over the phone--and she was so incessantly upbeat when she was talking to her own mom that it kind of bugged me. Aren't you taking this seriously? But she was one of those types riding through the cancer storm on the back of magical unicorn of happiness. Yes, I'm jealous. But good for her. Another younger woman, probably in her 30s, looked terrified. That didn't make me feel any better. I wanted to go comfort her. But I didn't think it would have been appropriate, I'm not sure how to do that with strangers. An older woman did that for me when I first came to MD Anderson, I should pass that on at some point. And then there was a 30-ish hippie/slacker looking guy with long hair reading a book about Buddhism. Good middle path, dude. ("Dude" works for both cowboys and hippie/slackers, by the way. Think about it. I call it the Jeff Bridges Rule.)

As you might expect, lots of very old and very sick people. As horrible as it sounds, you can't help but at least wonder--at a certain age, it is worth the fight? Of course it depends on the age, the level of fight, the quality of life, and THAT PERSON'S WISHES. But I'm pretty sure it is worth the fight until it obviously isn't--that old loud dude (another cowboy, not a hippie) in the wheelchair next to Wiley Gipp is a living, sentient being, with thoughts, memories, family, all the other things that make him human. Should he give up just because he's very old and a treatment might gain him 6 months only? His call, not mine, nor anyone else's. I support whatever he decides. How can anyone answer that question unless you are in that wheelchair? Who wouldn't want 6 more months? And what if it is too painful for him and he is just tired of the fight? That's why I was so disgusted with Republicans making up shit about death panels just for political gain on the health care reform issue. Bastards. It's a serious subject.

I also listened to people compare cancers, which is ordinarily fascinating. Four of us were waiting in a small room for our x-rays, wearing our gowns, and two were comparing. Those two left for their x-rays, and the silence after that was uncomfortable. So, I asked the other remaining man what he was in for.... I thought maybe I was being impolite if I didn't ask about his well-being when stuck together in such a small space. I mean, it's obvious we both have cancer issues. I asked if he was still being diagnosed or here getting treatment. He said he had pancreatic cancer, and all they were doing is checking its progress, and he's not receiving treatment for it. Well, that was awkward. What the fuck am I supposed to say after that? This guy is just here to find out how much longer he has to live. My x-ray turn came up, and I wished him well and told him to hang in there. He just said, "Yep." I failed that test. I should have asked him about the damn Astros.

Yes, a kind of depressing post, but yesterday was a long day at the cancer carnival.

Eating dinner now. Some oil and gas company (Chevron, I think?) is having a conference at this hotel, so I get to watch them all get drunk and hit on their female co-workers. Of course, I shared some drinks with some Chevron dudes at the bar the other night, they are a generous and friendly lot. Some Texan oil dude across the room is set on 10. It's all I can hear. But it's a friendly noise. Takes a lot to really bug me.


I-270, Exit 1 said...

I just found your blog. Looks like I have some catch up reading to do. Good luck with everything.

Joe B. said...

Just one of those Republican bastards chiming in to say that he never wants us to get to a place where someone makes the decision for you or your less fortunate frinds down there about when you or they live or die "on your behalf" because UR too old, the treatment is too expensive, etc. It is a serious issue. Good thing you did not ask the poor gentleman about the Astros...with their inauspicious start (0-3?) he might have lost any desire to keep fighting. Get well, Dan. Really glad the news is better 4U!! :-)