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Another excerpt from Today Cancer Tomorrow The World

August 18, 2012

Here’s an excerpt from my battle with the Big C that will soon be a book in September. I will probably sell it as an ebook for 99-cents so it can help mother people….if I can help others avoid the pain and have more hope it’s fine by me


The sign above the closed doors in the Stanford Hospital:

Infusion Treatment Area

Oncology . Hematology . BMT


 I stare at the doors. Infusion instead of chemotherapy, I guess infusions sounds nicer. If I want to remain alive, I eventually enter this room in a few weeks. I wanted to see this place before I had to get chemo for the first time, I wanted to cushion myself from culture shock.

I expel a deep sigh and listlessly muttered, “This is a fucking miserable life.”

I enter the waiting room. It’s pretty upscale on the stress-free side. A lot of dark wood. A reception desk that looks like your checking into a four-star hotel. Yeah, the Hilton with chemo. A flat screen on the wall flashes images of harmonious nature—flowers and streams, beautiful landscapes. And soothing pan-flute like New Age music plays on the speakers. You’d almost believe it was a lounge for a spa. But this isn’t a spa. People have put their life on mute and have to be here or die. The energy of the room is subdued and unsettling. Everyone looks so depressed was like being in a bus station. It’s like they’re hunkered down in the chill of a low-lying fog. It’s easy tell the patients apart from family or friends. Patients have knit caps, show no expression and are staring somewhere else beyond this room, others were bone marrow or leukemia patients with weakened immune systems who had to wear facemasks with vents on them. They are waiting to be called for their chemo appointment. They are slumped in their chairs. Most are dull-eyed, disheveled and look like the tumbled out fully dressed from a dryer in rumpled and frayed baggy shirts, and sweatpants with lint pilling. The bystanders on the healthy side of life were involved with laptops, reading newspapers or doing crossword puzzles, holding iPads, and drinking coffee. No one was speaking.

I stood before the black-marble counter reception desk, walked up to one of the mahogany-framed booths to a smiling woman who could have been a courteous bank teller and said, “I’m going to be scheduled for chemotherapy in a couple weeks, and I just wanted to be given a tour, if I could?”

“I’ll see if a nurse is free to give for you,” said the woman.

The oncology nurse comes up a hallway left of the reception desk, introduces herself, then opens a nearby door and gives me the tour. We walk through three rooms of the communal infusion area. Large windows overlook trees but the views are obstructed by construction equipment making improvements to the hospital. There are about eight stations with reclining chairs with small flat-screen TVs on swivel arms. Every station with a patient radiated a respectful and soft quiet circle of sheer isolation. I didn’t want to violate their space. I somberly walk through, trying not to make eye contact with anyone, fearing they might glance at me with distrustful or angry eyes. I saw weary, indifferent and resigned people dressed in casual clothes or sweats connected to with an IV in their arm or chest to tubes running from chemo sacks hung on poles with clicking and humming computerized monitors slowly pumping a continuous infusion into them. Aman in his late sixties, gray hair, weak, called out on strikes and collapsed, his eyes slits, his mouth turned down. His distressed wife is beside him. She has a grave, taut look of strained tension of suffering on her face, a copy of Forbes Magazine in her lap. A middle-aged Mexican woman had a knit cap on her head, its knob looked like the nipple of a baby’s bottle. I’m surprised people function during chemo. I figured they’d be whacked out Some patients read books, watch TV, others listen to headsets, use laptops or iPads, talk or play games on their cell phones. The rest drearily stare at nothing. Oncology nurses hung chemo on poles, or held bags of it and read the patient’s name while another nurse entered the information on a computer. One said to a reclining patient, “I’m switching out the mannitol.” I follow my guide past private rooms with beds. I spot a middle-aged woman sleeping, lips turned downward, a brown wig tilted on her head revealing her baldness.

“Well that’s it,” said the nurse, smiling.

I emerged from the room like a blur. I felt chastened for an offense I didn’t commit, completely expelled, trapped and numb, I guess you’d call it depression, but I couldn’t tell you what it was, except that in a world of cancer the Earth is flat.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Tim Geiselman permalink
    August 21, 2012 7:56 pm

    Another real good entry. I like the balance of detail in the room (Hilton for chemo, mohagany desk, pan flute music) – enough detail but not too much. We all know it and we all have some tightness as we’re waiting there even if it is for a routine exam. I also like the division between the world of the healthy and unhealthy. Please keep pounding on that theme as it is real powerful. At some point in life, each one of us will enter the realm of the unhealthy. The line between the two sides is real thin. I’m waiting for someone to draw out that line to the most minute detail. Last Sunday I went to see Chicago (the band) at an outdoor amphitheater. They played “Saturday in the Park” and my mind went back to sitting in your backyard and hearing Billy sing that song when we were around 8 or 9 years old. At the time it was all over the radio. A great song and a great moment. Then (who knows why) my mind wandered to your entry when you spoke of your mom waking you up on the first day of High School to tell you about Matthew. Sadness kicked in and I had to stop myself from going there and tried to focus on the band. Funny how we a thread memories in our mind and funny where that thread leads. “You’d think it was the 4th of July.”

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