Over the past three weeks, I’ve become acquainted with cancer and the victims it holds hostage. The chemotherapy room at the cancer center is sterile, cold, and long with evenly distributed beige naugahyde recliners on both sides of the room. One side faces the picturesque mountains, and the other side with a less picturesque view of the nurses’ area. There’s a stack of less comfortable chairs for those visitors offering support at one end. Someone has taken the time to cutout little inspirational sayings and glue them to magnets. They are posted on a refrigerator at the other end of the room.
“Never regret. If it’s good, it’s wonderful. If it’s bad, it’s experience.”
“Everyday is a gift, that’s why they call it the present.”
“The future depends on what we do in the present.”
“Fall seven times, stand up eight.”
“Think of the beauty still left around you and be happy.”
“I hope life isn’t a joke, because I don’t get it.” Someone had penciled out life, and written cancer.
“How are you today?” each victim is asked as they are escorted over to a comfy chair filled with fluffy pillows and warm blankets.
“Good,” they respond. They have learned to weigh their options against the alternative.
A nurse connects the patient through ports, pic lines, or veins to a variety of intraveneous drips. Some pull out a computer, a smart phone, or a book. Others sit quietly, lean back, and try to doze as their bodies are pumped with bags of side-effect-producing fluids.
An old woman sits hunched over next to her husband of nearly sixty years. Her walker is next to his lounge chair. A seasoned mother sits with her daughter who is dressed in pink. Her daughter’s head is covered by a colorful cap to hide her scalp. The mother hands out homemade caramels. “Try one,” she coaxes. “Melanie is such a good baker.” Still another, maybe seven months pregnant, has come alone. She fidgets to get comfortable. A young buff man pulls up his shirt to display a six-pack and a port. A nicely dressed woman wearing a stylish scarf wrapped around her head sits down. “My son has won an Emmy four times,” she softly brags, almost under her breath. “He’s one of the producers of Amazing Race.”
Cancer is a deadly disease concealed by hope. Other than a sometimes bald head, the chemo hair-don’t, you can’t tell the victims from the supporters. People quietly do their business, and leave.
The morning hush is interrupted by the ring of bell. The lounge chair residents take notice. Everyone claps. Tears run down my face. One more victim has victoriously endured the treatment that is nearly as deadly as the disease.
Yesterday, after six weeks of lounging around,, it was my sister’s turn to ring the bell. She excitedly gave the cord a yank. She can count her remaining treatments on one hand. She’s down to five radiation treatments, three external and two internal.
Clarence was wrong. Everytime a bell rings some brave soul has prevailed over infusion treatments.
Holly, you make me proud to be your sister.
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