April 1, 2010 – I was sitting in an exam room at Virginia Commonwealth University’s bone marrow transplant clinic with my best friend and life partner, Chris, waiting for the doctor to tell him what I had known about for two excruciatingly long days. Three days before, he had gone in for a weekly checkup and his blood-work results indicated the need for a bone marrow biopsy. When I called the next day, the nurse gave me the comparison of both sets of blood-work drawn four hours apart the day before. If his initial results gave cause for worry, the second draw showed an exponential change in just four hours, making that worry turn to dread. The only way to say with 100% certainty that the leukemia had returned was to do a bone marrow biopsy…but the blood-work showed all-but conclusive evidence to support a relapse.
As a teacher, hearing this over the phone during my planning period at work was possibly the worst time and place to hear news like this. What made it intolerable was realizing that Chris didn’t know and I did and there was no way I was going to be the one to break the news. I didn’t have the answers I knew he’d need to hear and we had an appointment for the biopsy and a doctor’s visit in two days; that was the time to tell him. I had to hold my shit together until then. I had to keep the biggest secret of our relationship from him AND hold myself together for 48 long hours.
Two days later, relief washed over me when the doctor came in and explained the suspicion that yet another transplant had failed to keep his leukemia at bay. I was terrified of the potential diagnosis, but at least it was out in the open. Since we wouldn’t know anything for sure until the biopsy results came back in about a week, it was the doctor’s opinion that we enjoy our time spent in limbo. I was starting Spring Break the following day and he told us to go on vacation, eat whatever and wherever, throw a kegger, etc. For months, we had lived in this paranoid, germ-a-phobic bubble with all kinds of precautions to avoid infection, and then all at once the doctor lifted all the restrictions with such nonchalance. We left the room in good spirits and I felt like I was living in some parallel universe. While the three of us knew the underlying meaning of the conversation we all took the path of least resistance – optimistic denial.
That night we walked down to the courtyard of our building. The temperature was in the 70s and it was the first time we had the opportunity to just sit outside and hang out. I sat against the front wall with my legs stretched out in front of me. He laid perpendicular on the stone yard with his head in my lap. He looked up at my face asked me what I thought the doctor really meant and I didn’t know how to say the obvious. I tried to be tactful, “Something might be wrong, but we can’t sit around worrying until we know for sure. Why? What did you get out of it?”
“Shit’s about to hit the fan so we might as well have fun while we can.” I had to appreciate his blunt response; it was the one I wanted to say, but couldn’t bring myself to.
For all that was said that day, the two words I really wanted to hear were “April Fools!” and not one person uttered that obnoxious phrase. Was that too much to ask for on April Fools’ Day?