A lesson from an elevator

elevatorLately I’ve been anxious about aches and pains. Always worried about a reoccurrence, even after the tests and MRIs come back looking fine.

Although I know we are all going to go one way or another, I am not one who likes to hear people say things like, “you know, you can always get hit by a bus!” when it comes to my cancer. Such comments minimize the patient’s concerns about their situation – they’ve already been diagnosed with the disease. But it is true that many of us never know what we will die of. And I’ve been in denial about all the other possibilities. I shouldn’t be.

In my latest worrying, I realized that I forget an experience I had two summers ago while visiting my dermatologist. I was dealing with a weird rash on my thigh that continued to worsen. No antibiotics worked. It ruined my entire summer. (By the way, stay away from waxing salons that double-dip.) Eventually, the dermatologist recommended a biopsy to find out what was going on.

I arrived at the appointment building and waited for the elevator to take me to the 11th floor. I entered the elevator, alone, and hit the button to my floor. I noticed that the elevator was moving faster than I had remembered the previous times I had taken it. Maybe the building operators want to be more efficient, I thought.

Suddenly, the elevator stopped. Not on my floor though. There was no indication as to which floor it had stopped on. The door didn’t open either. I was confused and feeling a little nervous. My heart beat started rising but I did nothing at that point, just waited. Seconds later the elevator dropped — I don’t know how far, but so quickly I reached for the walls to steady myself. It stopped. I held my breath. When I tried reaching for the intercom, the elevator decided to jump up again, this time even faster than before. I lost balance and went down on the floor, holding onto the walls as best as I could so not to hurt myself. The elevator suddenly stopped again, then made unsettled up-and-down movements, making my body jump. Finally I reached up and pressed the alarm button and heard it ringing far below.

I reached for my cell and called the doctor’s office. “Please help me!! I am stuck in the elevator!” I yelled. The receptionist responded, “Stay calm. I will call security right now. I am so sorry!” As she was hanging up, I overheard someone say, “I thought they fixed these elevators.” That only added to my tension.

As I sat on the floor of the elevator with my phone, I nervously looked for texts I’d received from my love ones and started to read some of them. I was panicking, but laughing. “Here I am, stressing dying from cancer all these years,” I thought. “Now I am going to die inside an elevator.”

The elevator continued to move, now slowly, drifting up, then down. Someone spoke through the intercom, asking if I was doing OK. “Oh yes, I am!” I said. In a way, I was almost relieved that an elevator would take me and not my cancer. I felt the elevator continue its slow up down motions, never completely stopping. The voice asked me to turn off the alarm, and that they were on their way to get me out. I let the alarm ring. I felt better hearing some kind of sound — felt like I was being heard. The alarm was also my way to scream my frustrations.

Again, I reached for my cell. I called my co-worker and she told me to calm down. I continued getting calls from my dermatologist’s office. “Are you doing OK? Can you breathe?” Although the air conditioner had stopped working, I was able to breathe. I contacted my guy, and as usual, he ran out of his office to come get me.

The elevator eventually stopped moving. I heard noises outside. The intercom voice said that they were trying to fix the switches to make the elevator move again, and not to panic. They would get me out.

After 35 minutes of them trying to ‘get me out,’ they were unsuccessful in saving me. They informed me that they needed to contact the fire dept.

I continued to sit on that floor. When the fire dept. showed up, it only took about 15 minutes for them to fix the ‘problem’. The elevator finally moved up and stopped, but it never made it to any of the floors. The fire dept. forced open a ‘special door,’ and I saw that I was between two floors, just below the 5th Fl. They pulled me up, off the floor, and out through the opening.

They said I looked very pale. No shit!

I took the stairs up to my appointment. Everyone was gathered, waiting, as if I was a bride entering church and being forced to get married. They all looked concerned. They offered me drinks and foods. There, someone informed me those elevators were supposed to get fixed. I was surprised he told me that considering the potential there was for me to file a complaint. But I did not do it. I was just tired and happy to be alive.

After my appointment, I took the stairs to the lobby. My guy was sitting there. Once again he had arrived to take me away from trouble. I was still in shock. He too noticed how pale I looked. What he found strange was the big smile on my face.

Yes, I laughed. At myself.

The odds of dying in an elevator are slim. But it happens.

The temporary wisdom from my elevator experience kept me calmed about my cancer for quite a while. I wasn’t even worried about the biopsy my dermatologist performed after that incident.

Cancer is all about worry, uncertainties and fear. Once it happened to me it changed everything. But I need to stay rational. After all, I can always get killed by an elevator! I still forget this lesson.

About thesmallc

I'm Rebeca. I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32. But there's more to my story: I am an animal lover. I love to cook. I have a wonderful fiancé who doesn't mind walking my rocky path with me. We currently live in New York. ---------------------------------------- “Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.” ― Viktor E. Frankl
This entry was posted in Awareness, Coping after cancer, Reflections and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to A lesson from an elevator

  1. Carrie says:

    Gah!!!! How terrifying! I once got stuck in the same elevator twice in the same day!!!!! It was terrifying. It never dropped, though. I can’t even imagine!!!!

    Thank you for sharing your experience. It’s hilariously terrifying!

    • thesmallc says:

      You are brave for taking that elevator twice. It took me a while for me to trust that elevator again. The entire experience was terrifying. But now I am popular in the building as the girl who wouldn’t turn off the alarm.

  2. scottx5 says:

    Sounds scary. Loss of control, I think, is a hidden fear in everyone. Like it that you wouldn’t turn off the alarm–let everyone know their elevators haven’t been fixed.

  3. illlive says:

    I really loved this post. And since being diagnosed with cancer, I too have often defied expectations by laughing in the face of peril! I think it’s a wonderful coping mechanism if it’s the first one you go to. Glad to hear I’m not alone in that. 🙂

  4. OMG I hate elevators! And I HATE that “get hit by a bus” thing. Anyway–so glad you got out!

  5. The Accidental Amazon says:

    Oh, Rebecca!! That’s horrifying!! I think I would have developed claustrophobia right then and there!! Thank goodness for cellphones, is all I can say. I hate certain bridges now, but that’s another story…. Wow. I’m glad you were rescued. I hate that bus thing, too, but I had to laugh at the idea that we can now add ‘you might get killed by an elevator’ to the list. xoxo, Kathi

    • thesmallc says:

      Kathi, I hope you did not have a traumatic experience with a bridge. I can see how some can be scary. I once walked across the Washington bridge here in NYC — bad idea. I did not take into account that bridges shake as cars drive through them. So far, no one has reminded me of my elevator experience when I express my fears about cancer (they better not!). Thank you for commenting. xo

  6. I’ve had nightmares about being trapped in an elevator. Arrrgh!

    • thesmallc says:

      I now get nervous when I take an elevator to a high floor. It was a fear of mine to get stuck in an elevator, but I think I handled my experience pretty well, considering. Just glad I did not faint, or even worse, vomited! xo

  7. bethgainer says:

    Hi Rebecca,

    I always feel weird about elevators. I’ve been stuck occasionally, but nothing like what you experienced! That’s scary and creepy for sure. What I really love is how good to you so many people were during and after this trauma. It showed they cared. Your guy is a gem.

    • thesmallc says:

      Beth, I def. never expected to have such a scary experience with an elevator. And yes, everyone was very concerned. Even recently when I visited my dermatologist, her first words to me were, “I always think of you and that elevator. I am so sorry.” I am very lucky to have such a wonderful partner by my side, thank you for saying that. xx

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