When Life Takes You To Moab

I sat in the Moab, Utah hospital trying and failing to be patient as I waited to get my blood draw. I glanced outside for Chris and Harlow, wondering if they took off to find a close trail, or if they were still waiting in the car. I’m grateful I can get these blood draws on the road, but they also piss me off, I won’t deny it. This was only supposed to have taken five minutes, but I’d been waiting for over thirty. It was around this exact moment when Fleetwood Mac rolled through the waiting room speakers, Stevie Nicks always showing up when she’s needed most, and I took it as a good sign. I do that a lot recently- take things as signs.

Somewhere in the midst of enjoying the magic of Rhiannon, while also trying to tune out the old man next to me demanding to see “the gal that was behind the desk last week,” I pulled back for a second and wondered how in the hell I got here. How did I find myself at a desert hospital in Moab, Utah waiting for a blood draw? And not only waiting, but hoping and praying this might be one of the last so my bruised left arm could finally catch a break. My bruised… everything, actually.

It’s weird how life works, how we’re constantly flicking Domino pieces, having no idea the trail of events we’re setting off by doing so. Some pieces more important than others, like the one I unknowingly kicked over about six months ago. I’ve been talking about this for months now, so I’ll spare you the boring details. Instead, we’ll skip ahead to the phone call I received from my doctor about two weeks ago, the news which gave us the green light for this trip- which has led us to Moab, Utah today.

“I bet your hCG is 80,” Chris said the last Sunday we were in Chicago. We were on a walk with Harlow, both too anxious to sit at home knowing I’d be getting my results the next day. The results that would tell us whether we’d be leaving for the trip that was already delayed, or if I’d be meeting with an oncologist the following week.

“I’m shooting for 22,” I responded, although I would have gladly taken 80 as that would still be a huge drop. Huge drop= good. No drop = kinda bad. Rise = bad.

We were so busy chatting I missed my doctor’s call. I wasn’t expecting it until Monday. When I saw the missed call and the number it belonged to my heart dropped, as it always does now when I see that number appear on my screen. I listened to her voicemail and when I heard her say the word “nine,” I nearly collapsed into the newspaper hut on Milwaukee and Division. I was sure I’d heard wrong.

“She said nine, Chris. I think she said nine.” I handed him my phone and demanded he listen, too.

“She did!” He confirmed. “She said Nine! Your hCG dropped to nine.”

And then we cried and hugged like a couple of crazy people at a very busy intersection in Wicker Park on a Sunday afternoon. I finally felt like I was getting closer to stepping off the tightrope I’ve been tiptoeing across for months now. We packed the car that night and left the following morning.

I have to keep testing until I hit zero three weeks in a row. After dropping from 460 to 9 after my second D&C, I was sure I’d hit zero last week when I tested in Nebraska. But I got 4.5. Still a drop, just not the number I was after.

And so I had to test in Moab. After my blood draw we went on our first arch hike. It was breathtaking and peaceful and just the reminder I needed to remember how small I am in this Universe. The miscarriage and partial molar pregnancy and all of the crap that goes along with it feels so huge and everlasting right now, but someday I know I’ll look back and this will just be a small blip of time in my life. Albeit a blip I won’t ever forget, but it will be a blip, never the less. I’m sure of it.

Two hours later we drove back to the hospital to get my results. In my experience, the nurse on staff usually just tells me my results, but this time she handed them over in a sealed envelope. This felt more important than usual, so rather than opening it alone I decided to wait until I got back to the car. As I walked back toward Chris and Har, my hands trembling with the envelope and the news it held, I couldn’t help but think of this scenario going a different way. The way that involved a healthy pregnancy and the news in the envelope revealing the sex of a baby. We’ve all seen the videos of excited couples opening their envelope together.

I don’t know where the thought came from and I hated myself for letting it in. “It should be this way,” it taunted. But it’s not, I wanted to scream back. This is just one of the many hard lessons I’ve learned from all of this, the “it should be this way,” voice pops up out of nowhere, threatening to ruin a perfectly okay moment at any given time, reminding me what I’m missing out on. Luckily, I’ve gotten better at remembering I’m in control of giving into it, or simply letting it pass.

When Chris saw me approaching his face fell. “What’s wrong?”

I looked at the red cliffs hanging in the background and thought about all of the paths we had yet to explore, “nothing,” I said. That voice has no place here, we’re in Moab, Utah, after all.

We opened the envelope together and the results revealed that my hCG levels measured at one. Not zero. Not two. But one. So the blood draws will continue. I’ll test week to week until I hit that magic zero. And I can only hope I’m inching closer to knocking over a Domino that will set off an entire string of events so good I can’t even begin to imagine the outcome. But for now I’ll do my best to remember the only real moment I’ve got is the one I’m in.

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