Valley Voices

‘See you in six months’: It’s a beautiful spring day to celebrate a good checkup

Poppies cascade down a dry creek bed along Trimmer Springs Road near Piedra.
Poppies cascade down a dry creek bed along Trimmer Springs Road near Piedra. Fresno Bee Staff Photo

All is quiet on my little street as I slowly back out of the garage, admiring the colorful poppies lining the driveway. I already dread the approaching Valley heat, which will force me to pull them.

I always schedule this doctor’s appointment early in the morning. I don’t want to spend the day fearing the phlebotomist will puncture me several times hunting down a cooperative vein.

A hot pink elastic bandage covers the needle hole. In an examination room, I struggle to connect two thin strips of plastic in an attempt to eventually close the flimsy gown. A cheerful nurse enters, takes my blood pressure, and offers assurance I will be seen soon.

She is perched on the computer stool inputting notes and numbers – no doubt including what the scale revealed today. I can’t resist asking if she will share my weight from six months ago. I now know the results of consuming too many Girl Scout cookies.

The doctor enters and begins chatting as I watch him glide the cursor. As this is only our second visit, he must be reviewing notes my previous doctor, now retired, has input. My thoughts immediately turn to what might be written about the challenges I faced five years ago.

It is time to get on the table and, as my bottom scoots back, I can feel, as well as hear, the crinkling paper. A little hammer tests my reflexes and other instruments stare up my nostrils, into my ears, and down my throat. In an attempt to lighten invasive moments, he asks if I am still involved with Rotary. I am now convinced personal notes are in my file and wonder what else is located forever in cyberspace.

Finally, I am helped to get up. While shaking my hand, he says “Shirley, you are doing great – relax and enjoy life – I will see you in six months.” It is always a relief to hear good news.

Clothes on, I sprint down the stairs to the front office. The next appointment would be September, which coincides with tentative travel plans to New York. I’ll check with my friends and call back later.

I am now in desperate need of a Starbucks fix. Coffee in the car’s cup holder, left hand on steering wheel while using the right one to help navigate my nibbling a gooey morning bun, I head home to finish a grant proposal.

Driving east on Highway 180, I spot the morning sun shining on the Sierra and coaxing the wildflowers along the freeway to bloom another day. What a great idea for Caltrans to throw seed into the fertilizer they spread along the embankments. Somewhere between Clovis and Fowler exits, I make a decision. As those who know me would tell you – I am definitely task-oriented. But, today I keep driving.

With the recent uprising of housing developments, I enjoy the open space with only a few scattered farm houses surrounded by orange orchards. A few miles later, I smile at the sight of the Indian Chief still standing guard at the Centerville store. Today, the Kings River is cascading around what was once Pierce’s Park where, as rumor has it, some outrageous parties took place.

Should I go through Minkler and continue south on Reed Avenue? Or, take Piedra Road? I turn left as I am eager to revisit Wildwood Island, where we lived for eight years. The little lake appears to be full. I park and walk over to where I can see the backyard. I stand a long time staring at the water. It seems I can still see my young granddaughters as they paddled around in our little blue boat, throwing pieces of stale bread to the ducks.

I feel calm as I begin the trek home, reflecting on the highs and lows of my life. I am fortunate. A loving family and good friends are my rocks. Five years ago, I was faced with a scary diagnosis. Today, I am a cancer survivor. My challenge now is enjoying more spontaneous moments.

Shirley A. Bruegman is a resident of Fresno. She can be reached at