Chemotherapy details are explained to me in layman's terms. I sign a consent form- astounded by the level of trust my signature implies. Trust in medicine and science and other people who are....well, human, like me. There are so many minds and hands and hearts involved, each doing their part then passing the torch. I hope each one of them got enough sleep last night, is not worried or distracted, ate breakfast and lunch, washed their hands, has enough time, likes their job, feels valued by their employer, feels supported by the other people in this chain,... I know that's a lot to ask, but in them I trust. In God within them, I trust.
In the clinic infusion center, I am led past other people who appear well into their retirement years, sitting in their recliners, reading, dozing, talking with people they brought with them or focused on the screens of the TVs placed high on the wall between every few chairs or so. Soap opera drama. Fakey-friendly banter of the anchors on the afternoon news. Game Shows. Talk shows. Courtroom shows. Commercials.
An old Sesame Street song starts spinning in my head:
"One of these things is not like the others.
One of these things just doesn't belong.
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
by the time I finish my song?"
It's me. The answer is me. I don't belong.
I am led to a rocker recliner. It's made of some sort of textured vinyl material that is probably easy to clean, but makes a farting sound when I sit down. So, in the face of the serious, somber mood-that I either brought with me to this room, or just maybe, was already here waiting- I laugh. A name band is placed around my wrist. Labs are drawn. A nurse starts a peripheral IV in my arm. Bags of Adriamycin and Cytoxan chemotherapy drip into my IV tubing, into my vein, coursing through my bloodstream with the beat of my heart, flooding my body with substances toxic to cells that grow quickly, but supposedly bypassing the baby who shares my body.
There it is. My deepest fear.... of hurting an innocent life. I watch the drips. Suddenly, this room feels too hot, too small, too confining. I shift around trying to get comfortable, to relax, but restlessness and a farting chair are not a good combination. I fight the urge to stand and scream some choice swear words over the mindless drone of daytime TV, to rip this IV right out of my arm and flee this room with blood spurting from my vein.... No, it isn't necessary to scare the crap out of everyone... I shift my weight, the chair farts, I giggle. But within a minute or two, I am fighting the urge to just reach over and casually turn off the pump. At Children's Hospital, I know the nurses can lock the keypads on the pumps to prevent kids from monkeying around with them, but I doubt they take such precautions here. Push the OFF button, no big deal, one relatively short 'beep,' then carefully loosen the tape, pull out this IV, press a kleenex over the site, quietly stand up and sneak out, avoiding eye contact with everyone between me and the door. Fight or flight. What exactly am I fighting? What am I fleeing?
I take a deep breath. I close my eyes and visualize the chemo reaching the cancer cells in my bones. The battle continues. I pray a protective bubble around my baby. I trust...
The hands on the clock barely move. They tick by ever so slowly. I position my arms and legs and lean forward, ever so carefully moving my body into a standing position, ever so quietly, ever so gently. With my butt at least two feet above the seat of the chair, I pause for a moment- then, I plop back down with every pound I've got. And that's what I have to say about this.