Monday, May 30, 2011


(This post was written 5/9/11)

Down the hallway and to the right of the general Radiation Medicine waiting room is the treatment waiting room: an eight-chaired meeting place of survivors. of people who know all too well the difference between rights and privileges.

This room holds a few regulars mixed in with some new faces, depending on schedules and how the machines are running that day.

With a sentiment somewhere between detention and prison lies the initial "what are you in for?" conversation and everyone is happy to share their story. There's no need to explain how difficult it was and continues to be; we all understand without words. No matter what stage or grade or location or level of aggression, we're all there for the same reason: long-term survival. We all go on machines that administer beams that kill fast-growing cells. Cells that need to be killed so they don't become cancerous. Some of us receive lower doses of radiation. Most of us have interesting hairdos.

When someone finishes radiation, a well-intended outsider might say, "congratulations! You're all done!" or, even WORSE, say, "think of it THIS way..." No. Not us. Those who sat together through 6 1/2 weeks of treatments will not offer cliches. We certainly won't downplay a serious situation that requires serious treatments.

(Side note: for outsiders who think "benign" means "okay" you are wrong. Even if it's not life-threatening, every tumor is serious-even more so with brain tumors.)

When we (the insiders) look at each other and say, "congratulations" for finishing a round of radiation we mean "I understand what you've gone through. You have a positive spirit, but your journey is far from over. Your smile does not deceive me; you look good on the outside, but I know that you are screaming inside. I'm happy you don't have to drive to the hospital every day, but this road is going to be very difficult and very, very frightening."

Everyone's eyes are filled with hope and desperation.

No matter what the case, everyone is wondering the same thing: what is going to happen to me?

1 comment:

  1. I remember how terrifying the cancer center was three and 3/4's years ago. Hair was an issue everywhere, people being rolled in on gurneys from nearby nursing homes, people pushing their parents, sisters together, sometimes loners like me. People fearing illness at every turn, with their filters over their mouths. Then, yesterday, 3 3/4 years later, I was in there, and my whole being just lightened up, and I smiled huge at the woman being rolled out by her son -- she had no hair, was questionably dressed, or just sort of packaged in something. She smiled back, not so much with her mouth, but her connectedness to all that is bigger. I have a bizarre fate -- a very slow growing brain tumor that has caused but one symptom to date -- a three day status epilecticus. I have to avoid looking for pity, as I've had no suffering yet, other than my completely smashed knee that prevents me from walking, when I used to do that at least 4 days a week in a serious way. So what do I have instead? I have connectedness, which often feels like isolation.


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