When I had my unfortunate three-day hospital stay following my first chemotherapy treatment, an unusual thing occurred, not something I’ve really mentioned until tonight. At the time I was transitioned from an emergency room visitor to a full-fledge hospital patient, the very nice nurse placed on my right arm a bright yellow armband that said FALL RISK - in big, bold, black letters.
Fall risk? Are you kidding me? Isn’t this the bracelet nursing home patients wear? Old people? Wait a minute – I’m still in my 40s, even if just barely. I mentioned to the nurse that maybe she had me confused with another patient nearby. She nicely told me that this was not the case.
The next morning, I commented to my doctor that surely somebody had made a mistake by placing this bright yellow FALL RISK arm band on me?” That’s when he explained to me the Fall Risk Index (FRI).. He went on to explain that people with cancer can have an increased risk of falling due to certain medications, dizziness, low blood counts and/or numbness of the feet from chemotherapy. And then there’s more good news . . . Those who fall are at risk of serious injury due to bone weakness and/or low platelets.
Tim and I laughed, and we’ve been laughing about it every since. Until today . . .
Without going in to all the details, here is what I remember:
- I am going to lunch with my mother and Aunt Alice. They are in Mom’s SUV, parked on the street. I am leaving my home, walking down my front walk to get into the car.
- I am now falling off the curb and into my street. It feels like a slow motion instant replay and I can’t seem to do anything about it.
- I stumble. I tumble. BOOM! I hit the street.
- My mother screams. She creams again. She then jumps out of her car and is standing over me. I’m still on the ground, on my back.
- My Aunt jumps out of the car. I’m not seeing her but she keeps screaming “Call 911.” “Call 911.” I’m not sure WHO she’s directing to call 911, but surely it’s not me.
- I’m still on my back, lying on Stonewall. Mother is still screaming. My ankle and right food and knees are hurting. My head hurts too.
- I’m wondering what I’ve done to myself. But I’m also curious – is anybody else watching this escapade? Surely we look like Keystone Cops, the Three Stooges, Lucy & Ethel with a third side kick.
At the end of the afternoon, I received a package by mail from the Birdman of Little Rock (i.e. Dean Rutherford). Inside was a personally signed note from the Dean directing me to a personally signed note from the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin, M.D. It’s a lovely note wishing me good luck in my fight. WOW! Dean Rutherford says in his own note: “I figure if America’s Doctor is on your side, this is a good thing.”
Surely he’s right about that. This can’t be anything but a good omen. Never mind that I’m now “upright challenged.” I’ve got Dr. Regina Benjamin on my team! Maybe tomorrow I’ll give her a phone call – ask her if I should be carrying around a cane or a walker, or sporting my body in a wheel chair. Or maybe I should move to a very flat one-level residence with no stairs coming in our out. Maybe she can explain just how it is that a normally healthy woman in her late 40s can now become a true live FALL RISK. Maybe she can give me advice on how to prevent these kinds of embarrassing falls in the future.
Along with getting kicked out of the wig store, this will go down as another cancer escapade, for sure.
Lesson learned: There are definitely fewer side effects if you can manage to walk down the street in an upright position. But even if somebody was watching from their window, even if a neighbor’s surveillance camera captured the entire incident on video, I know one thing for sure: Although the big fall was a bit painful, I l definitely looked very pretty sprawled out on my street because I was wearing one of my magic hats.
As Tim keeps reminding me, "you have to deal with whatever the day dishes out." All in all, it was another good day, other than the fall.