This Monday was of course my chemo day. I had had enough fun with my family and so I left for Dr. Gray’s office at 8:00 am. I really like Dr. Gray, have I mentioned that? He may not have any other Melanoma patients, but he is the right doctor for me in Utah. The doctors in Colorado are wonderful and I like them, but Dr. Gray just seems like he understands the whole of my situation.
So, he was really concerned about infusing me that day because my blood was so low in all areas. But I’d delayed for the trip and so he said, we’d go ahead. Just to give an example. He said my red blood cells should be 140 to begin, but I was at 59. I can’t remember the other numbers, but they were all similar. So it was kind of me pushing it and him saying okay, that finally I went to the infusion center.
The infusion center is different than any treatment I’ve had in Colorado. I’ve always been admitted to a hospital for a week at a time and monitored 24x7. This is different because although my infusion is 6-8 hours I am in a recliner next to lots of other people with different types of cancer and treatment. I was the second one in the center and the second to last one out for the day. I think it’s neat to have other people who are dealing with different things and to hear about their success and to just talk to someone who’s dealing with so much and finding good in their situation.
So, I sat down and soon a man sat next to me. He and his wife were extremely nice. He is finishing up his 8th round of chemo after his colon cancer was completely removed The nurse came over to me, and started my premeds and though I would love to have talked to this couple I was completely knocked out! That’s pretty good considering I have to be there all day, but two hours later I woke up from my drug induced stupor and a new gentleman was sitting to my left.
I kind of got my bearings and said, “Hello, I’m Anne.” He turned to me, his face ashen, with a look like, “Did I say anything to you?” He ended up saying, “The name’s Frank (I’m changing his name).” He turned forward, staring at the wall with all he had in him and scowled.
I turned back to my friend on the right and his wife, he was leaving—happy, I might add. They wished me luck and told me they’d keep me in their thoughts. My nearest neighbor was Frank and I wasn’t sure he really wanted to talk so I pulled out my computer and started working on some things.
The nurse came by to get Frank started. He was a new patient, and had just begun chemo that day. He also had colon cancer, they had removed part of his colon, had gotten it all, and now he was beginning his 10 weeks of chemo to make sure nothing will come back. He had a very long conversation with his wife and with some other girl who I think is probably a patient advocate and the nurse. Being in such close proximity I was hearing every single detail of his situation.
I tried to ask him about what he did for a living. “Mechanic.” He said, then looked straight forward and I didn’t ask him anymore questions. He called his wife and told her to go buy a thermometer (I was temped to suggest a good brand—BUT I DIDN’T) and a bunch of face masks so somebody wouldn’t KILL him.
At one point after the nurse was finished talking to him, she said, “You really need to bring some food with you while you are here, since you’ll be here four hours.” I would have suggested a book or magazine to read too, since he was just staring at the wall in front of him. I turned to him, trying to be nice and asked, “Would you like one of my apples?” “No,” was his answer. I thought that was fine until four minutes later he called his wife and said, “I need you to bring me some food. Bring a couple of apples.” “Wow,” I thought.
I just let Frank alone, because I was sure that this was his way of dealing with everything. The nurses were taking extra care with him because it was his first time. He was nice to his nurse because she was admittedly pretty hot. Anyway after a little while, with it being just the two of us sitting on that side of the room, I forgot it wasn’t really wise to talk to him. I’d been there 6 ½ hours and I was a little bored. I was finished with my project on my computer, so after the nurse talked to him about some things, I asked, “How are you doing?” He scuzzed me off and said, “Well, I don’t have anything else to compare it to.” Then he turned forward and seemed to want to end the conversation. I wasn’t ready to end it. I can understand that he could be angry. Anger and bitterness are understandable emotions when you’re dealing with something as huge and scary as cancer, but come on, we’re all in crappy situations here. So I said, “It can be really overwhelming at first.” He turned to me and said, really mean, “That’s an understatement. You wouldn’t even understand.”
I’m sure my eyes were as big as baseballs. I wouldn’t understand??? Who was this jerk anyway? What did he know about anything? Seriously, did he just say that to the bald girl next to him who has been here much longer than him that day? What did HE know about me? I looked around at all the other NICE people in the room. The other bald ones who had pretty serious situations—the ones with hair who had never resorted to bitterness and meanness. So you have cancer. Get over yourself! I wanted to shout. So they did surgery to remove a tumor the size of a dime! So your life is upside down. You should open your ears and eyes and realize there are twenty other people in this infusion center with lots worse situations than you!
I didn’t say it. I decided this guy was not worth my time. I opened my computer back up, chomped on my apple and buried myself in another project.
About an hour and a half later my nurse came over to give me my last meds and unhook me. The infusion room was absolutely empty except for old Frank or whatever I named him and another old lady across the room. My nurse lives in Ogden Valley and we’d talked a little, so she started to ask about how they found my Melanoma. I tod her my story, fully aware that Frank was listening in all his bitterness. I told her everything. Then she asked about out my kids. I didn’t shy back because Frank was all ears. I just told her my whole situation. She was clearly affected, but so nice. I told her that we’d just had a wonderful trip, and then my Mom came to pick me up and I was ready to go.
I got my final shot and packed everything up. As I turned to go I turned to Frank and said, “Good luck with everything Frank.” He looked different. I hadn’t looked at him for at least two hours. “Yeah, uh . . .” he said. “Yeah.” I turned and left with Mom.
I’ve thought about this so much over this week. I think maybe Frank will be different next week when he’s in the infusion center. I hope he will. You know there’s a lot that cancer can do to a person. It can kill me. The treatment can make me sick and bald and weak. But there is no way I am going to let it make me bitter. There’s too much good that’s coming from it. Sure, I want things to be different. I want to know my future. I want to be able to plan with my husband and look forward to watching my girls grow and change. But I’m lucky and blessed and fortunate and all those things because I have no bitterness. I can’t imagine how it would kill me quicker and more painfully if I did.
I sincerely wish Frank luck. I also wish him open eyes and the ability to search out his own peace in his situation.