Lately, I have been roaming around the Chemotherapy lab of the local hospital accompanying my best friend who is dealing with stage-IV cancer. It’s a welcoming scene for those who are odd-enough to immerse themselves in the hardship of others. The lab has a large room with a nursing station in the middle. There are big comfortable chairs around the room where patients rest for hours to infuse the chemo in.
Everybody smiles and there appears to be absolutely no preconception against anyone or anything. There is no talk of sex, either. Those who run the place seem competent. Nurses consistently use the term “my dear” in their conversations with patients. Patients are usually of two character types: spinners and tuners, but mostly tuners. About half of them wear hats.
Patients sit on those big comfortable chairs for hours and watch the poison getting injected in with each drop. Chemotherapy promises a bargain to cancer patients: in return for the possibility of shrinking the tumor and controlling its growth, you agree to submit to the notion of having a few things being taken away from you including: taste buds, ability to properly digest food, hair, long-lasting erection, and ability to concentrate. It seems like a reasonable trade.
Katy the nurse-in-chief, comes around down to earth and folksy. She has an extremely balanced sense of humor. She says that she has been a cancer nurse for 35 years. She talks about how her work experience has changed throughout years -from the days of patients experiencing extreme adverse side effects –to today when some patients don’t even lose their hair.
It’s mostly a quiet and anxious scene that has its own nomenclature and vibe. You see a lot of deep long looks to blank points. Everyone shares a smile … a real and penetrating smile.
Cancer sounds like a big word, that is often expressed with heft and gloom. These days, I’m experiencing a different side of it. The absorbing fact about facing a serious condition such as cancer is that one spends a good deal of time thinking about the past, and the future. The main difference in this case points to the fact that: a cancer patient’s past has little to no correlation to his future. This is one of those cases where the past definitely doesn’t equal the future …
Today is my birthday. One year older, and perhaps, more peaceful than ever. I have never felt so insignificant in the company of my best friend whose charisma has not left him -no matter how hard his condition has been. He’s a spinner. He has made a party of going through this experience in the chemotherapy lab. He has transformed the chilly, humming and beeping and blinking room into another chapter of his beautiful life where he wears sunglasses, and walks around in surfer-short and flip-flops without any indication of giving a fuck.