How do you feel?
My dad had a pat answer to that question. He would smile and say, “With my fingers.” We became so sick of the answer. We quit asking. Maybe that is what he wanted. Years later, after Alzheimer’s had eaten its way through Dad’s memory, I began to ask the question again. I really needed to know. Dad’s face would light up. The boyish, impish smile would spread across his face. In retrospect, I can almost read his mind. Oh no. Another test. Oh, wait. I know the answer to this one. “With my fingers.” Aced that one.
How do I answer that question on Day 88 post-transplant? As a reference, let’s choose the common “fine” as our base answer. What is fine? On most scales, “fine” is half way between “poor” and “excellent”. So “fine” generally equals “OK”. I can accept that. But, what does “OK” mean? I’m beginning to think “How do you feel?” is a loaded question. The answer can mean many things.
If we meet a friend in the grocery store and he asks that question in passing, does he even want an answer. “Fine” is just a formality.
If the friend stops to talk and in the course of conversation asks the question, perhaps with a light touch to my arm, what is he now asking? Does he really want to know? Is he really concerned with my health? “Fine” begins to take on a new depth. “I have my good days and my bad days. Today I’m OK.” How deep I go depends upon where I am – a grocery store – and how good of a friend he is.
Perhaps I walk into the church office seeking clarification of my giving record. My pastor walks by and invites me into his office. He closes the door and asks, “How do you feel?” I know this man. He is truly interested in how I feel. The location is private. I can freely answer. “I’m fine, but I have been a bit fretful lately.” We begin to dig deeper into my pat answer. My pastor, like a fine spiritual surgeon, probes and questions until he finds the problem – and the solution. He anoints me with oil and prays for me. The release is reassuring. Someone cares. I have shared my burden with a brother in Christ.
Now it is time to visit my MD Anderson physician. He and his PA walk through the door, shake my hand, then asks the fateful question, “How do you feel?” My “fine” is just the opener. I tell him what is happening inside my body – those little quirks and tweaks that may indicate trouble. He probes. He questions. He may send me for tests. He finds a solution. My healing continues.
So, how am I feeling? I’m fine though I feel like a caged animal. I want out. But I’m a rule follower, and I have restrictions. I’m not supposed to go anywhere I wouldn’t take a newborn baby. My immune system is like that. Non-existent. I feel like a thoroughbred being led to the starting gate. Let’s get this race started. I want to run. I want to be HOME! I feel like my strength is near if not exceeding what it was before the transplant. I want off some meds. They are playing havoc with my blood pressure and blood sugar. Other than that, I feel fine thank you.
Perhaps Dad wasn’t that far off the mark. Maybe the correct answer to “How do you feel?” is “With my fingers.”