I was in the cancer center at the Bayou hospital the other day for the first time in three months. That place instantly became my second home after diagnosis. I only had two weeks in between chemo cycles and those weeks were almost entirely consumed with appointments with the doctor and getting blood work, various shots, IV fluids, and blood. I knew this place intimately — the number of seams in the ceiling tiles; the number of squares of rug on the waiting room floor; the areas that were colder or warmer and louder or quieter; and the best bathroom stall that was usually clean, well stocked with toilet paper, and big enough for my wheelchair.
It was hard being in the cancer center after all that has happened. It’s the simple things that make a difference — I drove myself there. I walked through the hallways without a wheelchair. I felt strong. Normal. I wasn’t checking in, I was just checking in. As I sat in the waiting room, I started to look around. There were small groupings of two or three people here there and everywhere. You could tell who the patient was and not because they were bald or had obvious ports on their chest or PICC lines in their arm. They were the ones that were always sitting, the ones that looked utterly exhausted and sometimes even forlorn. I knew that look. I’ve felt it too. Their loved ones were busily fussing over them or some paper they were reading or chasing after a nurse. I knew what they were doing. I’ve been there too. I tried not to eavesdrop, I didn’t have to. I could hear the script of their conversations in my head, word for word. Did you call the doctor? When is your next appointment? What does your lab work look like today? Are you going to get the shot? It hurts to see other people go through this because I know how much it hurts to go through it.
I saw her sitting there. She was on the couch, looking down. Like a Siamese cat, I wanted to weave in and out around her ankles, jump into her lap and circle until I found the perfect spot to curl up on. I wanted to nudge my nose under her hand, look into her eyes and purr, I am you and you are me. You see, I was here just a handful of months ago. I was in that very same wheelchair. I was the one laying down on the couch because I was too sick to sit up and the wheelchair was too hard to sit on. I was the one who almost fainted three times. I was the one who yelled at the receptionist because they were taking too long to call me and I couldn’t wait anymore for fluids. I’m the one who told the lab techs exactly which vein in which arm I wanted them to draw blood from. Can’t you see. You will get better. Remission is coming. I am you and you are me and you will be just like me.