Tuesdays from the chemo unit, Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I know I’ve been slacking on Tuesdays since I discovered the nirvana of waiting, but there were two moving events for me in the waiting room this past Tuesday that I wanted to share.

One involved the ringing of the bell. I’ve mentioned before the bell at the chemo unit. When someone is finished their last treatment, they are encouraged to ring the bell. (I have looked longingly at that bell I must admit.) Today there was a man about my age who posed for pictures while ringing the bell. Upon walking out of the unit, him and his family all stopped and cried with happiness and hugged each other over and over again. It was such a moment of joy, optimism and accomplishment. I felt like a bit of an intruder, but also felt happy to be witnessing this celebration.

A little while later a nurse came out to speak to the woman who had been sitting waiting near me. I thought she, too, was waiting for her treatment and we both were in our own worlds. When the nurse sat down with her she said “You’re Mr. Brown’s mother? We just finished giving him his treatment and he started to shake and now has a fever. We need to send him up for blood work and it looks like we’ll need to keep him overnight.”

The mother just looked crushed. Again, I felt like an intruder into a very private moment, but I couldn’t move. The nurse was extremely kind and tried very hard to make it easier for the mother. But the man looked very young on the gurney as he passed me by and I just felt the mother’s heart ache.

This is the waiting room at the chemo unit. I bounce in every week for my treatment pretty happy most of the time, confident that this treatment is keeping me healthy and stable. But for many people, being at the chemo unit is an intense experience, full of anxiety and then, potentially, more positive feelings when the intensity is over. I’m just an observer, but I feel as if I have a window into some deep humanity by witnessing the experience of others.

It’s definitely more than just a waiting room.



2 thoughts on “Tuesdays from the chemo unit, Tuesday, May 29, 2012

  1. I found your writings about being in the chemo unit really interesting.
    I always found my visits to chemo for treatment very emotionally intense, and would often feel overwhelmed during my time there. It wasnt like when I went for my radiotherapy treatment which was always over in fifteen minutes, and you went in alone. With chemo, you were all having treatment in the same room together. There is no escaping in your mind (for me) that you have cancer. It felt very in my face. As much as I wanted to put on my ipod and forget, I could not distract myself from it .On my first ever visit to the chemotherapy unit. I was shocked by the enviroment, the general layout was like a ward, sectioned into little cubicles, and in each cubicle a chair, and all the gear to infuse you with chemotherapy, rows and rows of them, so you sat beside and opposite people. Although there was a sense or feeling of comradship at times amongst the patients, some would give little smiles at each other, others would joke with the nurses, some would try and sleep through it, I often found it a very sad and intense place to be. You would see the same people week after week, and over time you would see them change. One week someone would have hair and look fairly well, the next week they would have bold patches, the next week they would look gaunt and thin and have no hair, This was shocking for me, I was disturbed to see the number of people in the unit, every day every cubicle was occupied, and this was just one unit in one town. There were beautiful moments, when people had come to their final day of treatment after what may of been weeks or months of chemotherapy, when that last bag has drained, smiles and hugs and tears of joy, some people would walk around and wish others still having treatment good luck.
    I almost felt guilty on my last day of treatment, I didnt go out with a big song and dance, as much as I felt like that inside, I couldnt celebrate it
    infront of the others still there. It was a hauntingly stark place to be,

  2. Marianne says:

    Sam, you bring me into the room as a silent observer. It is a glimpse into an intense slice if life.

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