Life in a “Bubble Room”, Part 2
On Friday, March 4th, I got dealt a few blows of bad news and wrote it down in my little pink diary. This one diary entrance spoke volumes of my time in the “bubble room” in a very small amount of words.
At this point, I was having bone marrow aspirations weekly. The last few that I had had were some of the worst. The doctors tried giving me different kinds of pain killers each time, hoping one would either relax me enough to fall asleep, or bring down my anxiety and calm me for the procedure. None of them seemed to work.
I remember one in particular where the doctors decided to try Vicodin and see if it would help me break free of my anxiety. I felt so weird. I was laying on my bed and the whole room was spinning above me. I hoped that they had finally found something that was going to help. I was wrong. At first, the pain seemed to be slightly more tolerable and I was hoping it would be over quickly. Then, after the doctor pulled the needle out, he said he didn’t get what he needed and would have to go in again. The doctor had to repeat the procedure on both sides. Having to deal with two extractions was hard enough, but four was almost unbearable. I still don’t know how my mother got through those times of the week.
As part of my treatment, I was assigned two counselors that would come to my room and visit with me every week. I had two male counselors, Shawn and Brad. I remember Brad being pretty good looking, because my mom had a little crush and was always there whenever Brad was. Shawn, however was the counselor that made the biggest impact on me.
He tired to work with me on training myself to leave my body during the procedures and go to a “happy, safe place” in my mind. He would count backwards while I closed my eyes and we “walked” down a long hallway. At the end of the hallway was a giant, wooden door that opened up to my “place”.
As soon as the door was open, I could almost smell the fresh air and feel the cool breeze on my face. My special place was very specific. I walked out into a gorgeous green rainforest surrounded by tall, windy trees and waterfalls all around me. When my feet hit the water, they instantly changed….to a long, shiny tail. I was a mermaid in my special place and my friends were the dolphins that inhabited the water all around me. I wanted to stay there for hours, I wanted to live there. This place that was free from pain and loneliness. This place that allowed me to be happy and surrounded by my “friends” that only wanted to play all day.
Side Note: *Not long after my I got married in 2000, my husband and I took a trip to Laguna Beach, California. We decided to walk into the Wyland Gallery on the beach, and I was instantly stopped in my tracks. There on the wall in a gorgeous frame, was a painting of my “special place”. I now have a magnet on my fridge of this image that reminds me of pure beauty that I was able to find in the midst of darkness. This artist was able to somehow reach deep inside me to a place that I had never shared with anyone and put it out for the world to see.
My 10th birthday was coming up on March 9th, and I wasn’t excited to spend it in a hospital room. Who would be, right? When I wrote my diary entry on the 4th, I had just found out my dad would not be there that night, but could only stay a day or two that weekend. He also would not be able to make it back on the actual day. Spending my birthday without my dad was not my idea of a good time. Especially since that day was special to both of us.
It was March 9, 1978, when I was born to James and Michele Anderson in Henderson, Nevada. I weight in at a whopping 10 pounds 2 ounces. My mom has always said that the nurses called me “Elizabeth Taylor” because of my head full of pitch black hair and violet eyes. Nurses and doctors all came around to see the big baby.
I was given the name Jamie, because it was the girl version of James and I just happened to arrive on my dad’s birthday. We had shared birthday cakes and family parties through the years and I always loved being my dad’s “main squeeze”. This particular year, the idea of celebrating our birthdays in a hospital room was less than appealing. We had to decided to have a “party” a few days early because my dad would be there for just a day or two and could not make it back on the actual day.
On that following Sunday, we decorated my room for a birthday party. My mom and nurse, Margaret came in and helped me decorate with streamers and handmade posters. I spent hours that weekend making a card for my dad and filling it with tiny little pieces of confetti I had torn myself. When he came to the room, I threw the confetti out the door and we all sang Happy Birthday.
My mom, dad, brother, grandparents and Aunt Ninny (Linda to those who are not related to her) and grandparents were all there. My grandparents were living at the Ronald McDonald House with my mother to give her breaks at the hospital and keep her company. All my favorite people were there to celebrate with me.
I, of course, had a list of items I wanted for my birthday and my parents and nurses made sure all the presents went through the sterilization machine in time for me to open them. I got a couple outfits and some killer white washed denim boots (it was the 80s after all). My nurses also allowed me to have some vanilla cake, and gave me a jar of icing so I could frost it myself.
In the midst of all the pain and fear and anxiety, we had a moment of joy. It was not the most ideal way to spend my 10th birthday, but looking back now I am grateful that it happened the way that it did. It was most definitely a “tender mercy of the Lord” to have a little break from our new “normal” and have some time to just have a little celebration.
“Great are thy tender mercies, O Lord.” Psalms 119:156
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