They are lined up against both walls, like weird little robots designed to hold up wobbly human beings, some the byproduct of high energy X-Ray radiation. I find myself sitting in one of these chairs. Fortunately for me my chemo ward is on the third floor. I get to look at the distant west hills of Beaverton while radioactive entities pour into me. Little comfort to this. I am wondering all the while a few things mostly at the same time. How am I going to feel after this? How is this going to affect me later on? Is this really going to put my life back to normal. Well to the last question I can answer no. One never gets back to normal when we take this excursion near death’s camp. It’s pushing the limits of humanity maybe not in medical terms but certainly in psychological terms, at least it was for me. I feel so hollow right now. Like a strong wind could blow me into oblivion like I’m made of so much balsa wood held together with clothespins and thread. I’ve just completed a stint of radiation therapy next door to this ominous sounding gadget called a Gamma Knife.
All this stuff did was to kill all the cancer cells in the tumor I had and reduce its size beyond physical or tactile discovery. It also took its toll on my energy, and my drive. I felt like sleeping a lot, and not doing much else. It also made me sore as hell in some parts I’d rather not divulge in this note. Now I get another whammy to my system. Chemo. I get to take this stuff called five FU. My oncologist tells me I won’t get sick from it or lose my hair. That’s a laugh really I don’t have much hair to lose anymore no how. So I sit there. A nice woman comes over wearing a nurse uniform. She asks me if I’m cold. Yeah sorta. She lays a blanket over my legs. It’s not uncommon for people doing this sort of thing to have their metabolisms shot to hell. It’s not like getting a flu shot. I have this deal above my heart installed before any of the other Frankenstein deals they did to me; they call it a Porta Cath. It is a main line into a large vein that is near the heart. It’s covered up with a patch of your own skin. It feels like a button off of an old Navy coat. They stick this big needle into it and they can pull blood out of you or put chemo back into you whichever they want to do. And yes it hurts when they stick you with this. Of course mine was also problematic and I started feeling like a dart board after about three attempts to get the damn thing to give up blood samples. After a fashion it would. They would use this port to give me my chemo as well. During my first round on this stuff they had me on this portable pump. I never got to sit in the office, I came in to get this thing installed on me, then was sent on my merry way. They took it off of me over the weekends. Thanks that was big of ya. I felt more like a member of the Borg Collective. This pump is about the size of a 1965 transistor radio, complete with aquarium clear plastic tubing running from the pump into my Porta cath. I also got to sleep with this piece of shit flopping around in bed with me. I was amazed that I never crushed it while sleeping. This was my first go round with chemo. Then I had my two operations which were spaced about a month apart. After I got done with both of those I got to go back to the chemo theater and sit around under an IV drip into my Porta Cath. I sat in there all by myself looking at some poor souls a hell of a lot worse off than I was. I remember an old lady that was in there. She was so beat up by this whole process that she could barely navigate. She was embarrassed by her inabilities; I could tell she was a proud and noble woman before her cancer ran her down. She kept looking at me and smiling. So the next time I came in I asked one of the nurses if I could sit next to her. I got some strange looks until I told them I wanted to talk with her. She came in just about the same time I did. So I got there a bit ahead of her and they put me looking out the windows at Mt. Hood. When she came in the nurses smiled at me and sat her down right next to me in the chair to my left. She looked worse now. This process was catching up to her in leaps and bounds. She realized who I was and I saw a really amazing thing happen. A bit of sparkle came into her eyes and a smile came across her ancient lips. “How are you?” she asked me in an almost whisper of a voice. “Well I’ve been better!” I told her. “Me too!” she said with a laugh. She told me her husband had died of the very same thing she had. I saw some tears in the corners of her eyes. Her hand was on the edge of the chair and so I reached over and took it in my hand. It was kind of cool and I felt that it would break if I wasn’t real careful. She squeezed my hand. God I felt so sorry for her. We had some really splendid conversations, and I had her laughing during her visits. The nurses even came by and sat down to listen to some of our stories. Once you get everyone plugged in and turned on there isn’t really much to do except keep track of the bottles hanging off the IV racks. I’d rather talked to this human event recorder than read any worthless Better Homes and Gardens magazines anyway. She was way more fun. So that’s the way the remainder of my chemo treatments went. I never did get her name. I wish I had. I got there one time and she must have come in a little earlier because she got to leave before I did. After she was gone one of the nurses came over and asked me if I knew this woman from someplace else. I told her no. She told me she thought this was nice what I was doing. I told her “it’s the least I could do.” It really was. Had I been an Empath I’d have snatched the cancer out of her.
So I came in for one of my last treatments. I got hooked up and was looking forward to seeing my lady friend. Her chair remained empty. The nurses put no one else in the chair during my stay there that day. When I was being unhooked the nurse told me that my lady friend had passed. She was just a bit too fragile for this. I decided right there that I was sure as hell not gonna let this get the best of me. Sometimes cancer just doesn’t give you that option. My doctors of whom I had three all told me I could beat this. I was not about to sluff off and feel sorry for myself, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to let cancer take me like it took my lovely older friend. At first I felt a real loss, I still do at times. I wish I knew who she was I’d go put flowers on her grave. This brings me to another point. Finding out her name was one of life’s little things. We tend to consider these things unimportant when in reality they are some of life’s most important things. I learned lots of things about life in the chemo chairs. I learned that the little things in life should always be addressed with as much energy as you can give them. Little things like telling your wife, husband, kids, dogs, cats and gold fish how much you love them and how much they mean to you. Life is fleeting, and it comes and goes with the blink of any eye. Once someone is gone all the welll wishing in the world can’t convey all your well wishes you also wished you would have told them. Those of you going thru chemo, have gone thru it I salute you. It is more than a healing process for cancer. It’s also a healing point for your thought processes and your future behavior. At least that’s what I took away from it. The chemo chairs are a lonely place to be, it’s no damn fun and it sort of emphasizes that you got some potentially deadly disease, and that you are gonna feel like hammered dog shit for a while. But I say to you, use the time to think about all your good people in your life, and what you are gonna do with your life when you are cancer free again. Even if you have a terminal diagnosis there is still some time to get your ducks in a row. I’ve found this sort of thinking therapeutic and comforting. I feel cancer is on its way out. It’s had its way with the human race way too damn long. I see advances today that are truly mind boggling. I will make a prediction that in ten more years we will see some strains of cancer eradicated.
Cancer will put you in touch with God, it will put you in touch with all the things that are really important in life and all the stuff that isn’t. You will be amazed at how unimportant some of the stuff really is these days. It will make you less tolerant of selfishness and bad TV, it will bring you closer to music, to your family and pets, and this is as it should be.