At the chemo shop this afternoon getting an immunotherapy infusion (Erbitux / Cetuximab). I’ve got it easy today, physically. Some heavy fatigue is loaded in the chamber and aimed at me for the next 36 hours but that just means I’m hunkering down and binge watching Parks and Rec for the second time through. Like I said, I’ve got it easy.
That’s not the case for this woman in the stall next to me. When I walked in to pick my chair (with my new limp / strut that my nurse Ty just called my cancer swagger), she was curled up crying. She is probably 50. She looks 75. Smooth bald head hidden under one of the knit beanies they give you in the waiting room. I bet 2 years ago she was a beautiful normal looking woman and now she’s been reduced to what could be mistaken as a meth head on her last leg. I still think she is beautiful. Scars and skinny limbs are cool in my book. Her courage is hidden underneath the horrible cloud of what chemo does to you physically and emotionally. But it’s there. She is a fighter that’s been pummeled and is face down on the mat, but she is still in the ring and in the fight. Sheesh, what type of “treatment” must she be on.
It’s not a situation where I feel like going over and giving her a hug or a fist bump or tell her some encouraging cliche. This a deal where you recognize the sadness and sacredness and utter loneliness of suffering. You bow your head. You whisper a prayer asking for some relief to get to her, rápido por favor. You whisper a prayer of gratitude that today isn’t your day to be wrung out and you beg for the strength to get ready for when it is your turn.
It is helpless. I couldn’t keep watching. I had to boom the Hamilton soundtrack through my ear buds and thumb a quick blog post from my phone. Helpless. God bless her. Now she is waiting for a transport to get to the hospital for a blood transfusion. She has some fluids (and hopefully some morphine) flowing in the IV right. Looks a little more comfortable or less miserable. What a boss. Whew, she just fell asleep. They definitely slipped a little morphine in there. Bless them. Bless her.
We all prefer to feel strength rather than weakness. Weakness introduces all sorts of negative emotions — frustration, anxiety, fear, anger, disappointment. If we own that weakness and don’t ignore it or sweep it under the rug it can also introduce humility. It can be the spotlight that perfectly accentuates a power in our lives that is not innate. It is other worldly. It is celestial. Man, I hope that is how she is feeling it. Weakness is the ultimate two-edged sword. She just woke up to listen to some nurses instructions and she forced a smile. I think she is feeling it right. I wonder how long she has left.
I’m glad it’s not my time yet. Obviously I have no choice or control. None of us do. But I’m ready for this next run. Maybe Lin-Manuel Miranda just has me jacked up on his genius lyrics. I have to remember I’ll be bedridden within the next four hours, no question. But that seems like a long ways a way.
What a Friday afternoon at the chemo shop. Thank you sweet sister for forcing me to think and ponder and embrace all of this, all at the expense of your suffering. Hope to see you next Friday, sister. Fight on.