It ends with the dragonflies. Swooping, hovering. Their big eyes, transparent wings. I sit on a terrace overlooking Bradford Beach and Lake Michigan. Just a few hours earlier I was trying ungracefully to surrender some of my blood to a lab tech in the hematology department of the Cancer Center at Froedtert Hospital. But now, once again fully conscious, I watch the dragonflies, mesmerized. The dragonflies are almost unnoticeable against the gorgeous blue-green water and puff-filled sky beyond. But if you focus close to you, pay attention to what’s just above and beyond, you see them. It’s their flying — not fast, but relaxed — that intrigues me. They don’t seem to have a destination. Just humming around, an occasional swoop here and there. They make me smile.

~ ~ ~

It was the second needle prick that did it. Everything around me started swirling and… Oh, yep. There I go.

The dream. What was it about? Not a clue. But, it was epic. Especially for having only a few second time slot to cram everything in. How does your brain do that?

I woke up completely disoriented in what I thought was a different room (it wasn’t) in what I thought was a bed (no, it was the same chair, just reclined) with three or four people around me. One putting a mask over my mouth, one standing at my feet next to a portable computer thing, and one sticking another needle in my arm (believe it or not).

“Keep your eyes open, Lauren,” said the one holding the mask to my mouth. Wearing glasses. Peering at me through those glasses less than a foot from my face. “Keep your eyes open.”

“It won’t stay on, she’s too clammy,” said the one who had stuck another needle in my arm. She was wearing purple.

“Hold it for a minute. That should be up to 50,” said Glasses to Purple, pointing at some thingy on the wall.

“Pulse ox is 93,” said The Tech standing at my feet. “BP 90 over 60.”

I just want to go back to sleep…

“Ah, ah! Keep those eyes open for me!”

Ugh. Nauseated. I wanted my dream back. That nap wasn’t long enough. Half hour. Hour?

“How long was I out?” I murmured through the mask.

“Just a few seconds,” said Purple, smiling at me. She was nice.

Odd. Unbelievable. (To me.) But probable in reality. Considering I checked out of reality for a few there. How would I know otherwise?

“Have you fainted before?” asked Glasses.

“Mhmm,” I forced through the mask. “In high school. I was trying to give blood. The bag was almost full, then… I was out. They said they couldn’t use it.”

“Because the bag wasn’t full?” asked Glasses.

“I was…So. Mad.”

The three of them laughed.

Uh oh. “I feel sick.”

Flash mob. Purple grabbed a bucket, Glasses leaned me forward, and The Tech pulled away my mask.

False alarm.

There’s Mom. “Oh sweetie.”

Hi mom.

“Did you drink enough water this morning?”

Guess not.

“Mmm.”

All this because of lack of water. Two nurses, one lab tech. An IV bag. Oxygen mask. Thing on my finger. More poking. Puke bucket. Mom. Nurses and lab techs looking at me unblinking. This was the most hospital I’ve ever had. And it wasn’t even the hospital. It was the lab.

Never a broken bone. Never an ER visit. Never had I been in for anything.

Ugh the nausea.

Why again was I here? Oh right, “low WBCs.” English? Low white blood count. Found during a routine physical I had in May back in California. There are any number of reasons for low WBCs including leukemia, genes, and ‘just because.’ Great.

I’ve heard that cancer patients going through chemotherapy get really sick and experience a variety of adverse side effects including terrible nausea. Some patients can’t take the chemo anymore and just want to go back to their own bed in their own house. I’ve always thought that if I ever got cancer, I wouldn’t give up. No sir.

Ha. If that little episode of mine and the medical flash mob and the nausea was my intro to hospitals — albeit the tiniest, least dramatic, most microscopic deal ever — I want nothing to do with getting sick. Common cold? Fine. Seasonal allergies? We’re BFFs. Anything else dare tread in my personal pool of healthiness and good luck to me. I don’t like fighting.

Which brings me back to those dragonflies. You know how sometimes, in an effort to comfort someone going through a crisis or a rough patch, a person will say, “At least you have your health”? I for one, don’t ever remember my life being in such dire straits as to deserve that piece of verbal (non)comfort. I have my health and so much more.

I have perfect health, actually. (My WBCs came out higher this time. It seems as though the low count found in May was “just because.”) Good health aside, I have two wonderful parents, awesome friends, a great relationship with my sister, and a boyfriend who loves me dearly. I live on a beautiful earth, with blue-green water sparking in the distance, and dragonflies.

Finally after making it out of the lab (via wheelchair), my mom and I sat in the exam room together waiting for the hematologist. I teared up.

“What’s the matter sweetie? What’s going through your head?” asked Mom.

I mumbled something about nausea and cancer. I think she chalked it up to nervousness about being in the “Cancer Center.”

“Yes, it’s a terrible name,” said the doctor, after giving me the good news that my WBCs were back up. “It just gives a bad impression. I’m just not high enough in the chain of command around here to get someone to change it. That’s why we, especially since we’re located in this building, are called the ‘Benign Hematology’ department. Emphasis on benign.”

But really, it wasn’t the fear of cancer that made me all teary. It was the gratefulness I felt for the lack-there-of. Whereas a lot of other people would still be in the Cancer Center building, fighting, I knew that soon I’d feel right as rain and be back outside in the sunshine. It was the deep appreciation I felt for my health, my life, love and happiness.

And dragonflies. ☼