I will never forget the first time I walked into the chemo infusion room at my cancer center. It was during my “Chemo 101” class (the class I never wanted on my resume despite my complete nerdy love of school), and the final few minutes were spent exploring the area that I would call home for four hours every three weeks in the winter of 2011-2012. The room was full of recliners holding mostly bald patients connected to IV poles with clear bags of drugs hanging from them. It looked like a scene straight out of a science fiction movie to me. I couldn’t imagine myself in one of those chairs, hooked up to the piping that would pump chemo into my veins. But all too soon that was my reality.
I remember the odd relationship I had with time during that period, wishing away the days of feeling sick and exhausted with the hope that I was buying more days with my family in the long run. As all of you know, I made it through chemo, and have gone on to live my life with a renewed sense of purpose and with very different priorities. Time is something I covet with the knowledge that things can change tomorrow. I’ve learned to manage the fear and anxiety that comes along with cancer… most of the time. And then yesterday it all came back to me.
I knew that starting the new bone density drug would entail a trip to the infusion room (the drug is given through an IV), but the reality of how that would feel didn’t really sink in until I walked into the room again. It was a light day — there were only four other people occupying recliners in the room, but their weak smiles and bald heads brought me right back to my own chemo treatments. I sat down in the chair, waiting for the nurses to warm my veins and place the IV. I smiled at the woman across the way who was nestled into her chair, covered in blankets, chatting quiety with her daughter. I watched the man down the way shuffle across the room, pushing his IV pole carefully, to ask the nurses a question. And I remembered so clearly how I felt three years ago. My heart started to race as the anxiety and sadness built up in my chest, but after taking several deep breaths, I was able to wash free of those feelings. Instead, I was filled with a calm quietness.
I sat back in my recliner after the IV was placed, closed my eyes, and thought about everything good in my life. I reflected on the good fortune that I was only revisiting this recliner to receive a drug that will hopefully prevent more cancer in my life. I thought about all of the well wishes and love I had received from friends and family. I took that all into my heart and started to feel warm despite the cold drug that dripped through my veins. When I was done with the infusion, I grabbed my jacket, thanked the nurses, smiled at the patients sitting near me and willed them healing thoughts. I walked out into the beatifully clear day and took a moment to feel the heat of the sun on my face, thankful that I am here to enjoy another day.