My birthday is July 29th. Which makes me a Leo, but right on the cusp. So when people would ask me my sign I would be cute and say “I’m a Leo but I’ve got a little Cancer in me.”
It never felt right saying it. Feels especially weird now.
We got to the hospital early and asked concierge where the infusion center was. That’s right…the concierge. Not sure why the hospital needs one. Like were they going to suggest restaurants I wouldn’t feel like eating at? “We’ve taken the liberty of making and canceling dinner reservations for you. Also if you are looking for recommendations on local attractions you’ll be too tired to attend please don’t hesitate to ask.”
They told us to plan on being there for six hours so of course we packed snacks like were were going to be there for six days. Cheez-its, dried mango, trail mix, you know… for all the trails we’d be taking. We brought bottles of water, peanut butter honey sandwiches, a blanket, candles, bug spray.
I had crossword puzzles. We had downloaded podcasts. I brought three books with me! Three! And my Sunday New York Times. We were like new parents taking their baby to the beach for the first time. “Should we bring the crib?? And her diaper genie?? We don’t have a diaper genie??? Fuck it we’ll buy one on the way!”
Since this was my very first treatment there was a lot of explaining. The problem is, I’m not very good at listening.
No, that’s not true - I’m very good at listening I’m just not very good at receiving lots of information at one time. And the thing you get the most of at your first day of chemotherapy is information. I kept saying “mhmm, mhmm” but I had no idea what the fuck she was saying. I heard words like ‘Folfox’ and ‘oxaliplatin’ and I was like that’s got to be either my drugs or the names of bands in Brooklyn.
Once my lab work came back they made my medicine specifically for me. They hooked me up to the IV, the medicine would drip out and it would take two hours to finish the bag. She pushed the button and we were off. Most journeys begin with a single step. This began with a single drip.
When the drips were almost finished the nurse brought a guy into talk to me. He was 40, had stage four colon cancer, and was on his 11th treatment. He said the whole thing had kicked his ass but that’s how he knew it was working. At first they thought his tumor was inoperable but it had shrunk like crazy to the point where they thought they could now go in and get it. He had totally changed his life. He had an an Auburn University hat and sounded like a good old boy but cancer had turned him into vegan. As he was telling us about the dangers of processed food, I slowly reached over and covered up my box of Cheez-Its.
He said something that really stuck out to me. He said “your story is going to be different. My story is my story and your story is gonna be your story. I just recommend trying to take a walk everyday. No matter how bad you feel.”