We got to Emory at 8am yesterday morning. It was really cold. “I’m sick of winter,” Jaimie said, shivering in the front seat.
“It’s still fall,” I reminded her.
“SHUP UP!!!!” she replied, on the verge of tears.
I checked in for labs. Much to my chagrin, the same violinist from three weeks ago was outside the lobby of the lab room. For an hour I got to listen to the most depressing version of “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” known to man, and a rendition of "Silent Night” that made me wish there was an actual War on Christmas, because I found their first target.
The infusion time for this particular medicine is only thirty minutes. The last medicine I was on took two and half hours, so in my head I think I should just breeze in and out.
Nope. No matter how quick the infusion is, it is impossible to get a caner treatment in less than four hours. It’s ironic, because time is the thing that all cancer patients are fighting for more of, and it’s the thing our treatment requires so much of.
It’s strange being back at Emory, the place where this whole thing started. It’s impossible not to reflect on the hours I spent in that infusion room. To remember the feeling of when the medicine first hits you. The grey hue my skin would take. The hours, the endless hours spent sitting and waiting, eagerly anticipating the arrival of the medicine, yet also wishing it would never come.
The infusion center at Emory is also more communal. St. Francis, where I’ve been going for the past year and a half, has individual pods. You barely see the other patients. Not so at Emory. They have what I would refer to as an open floor plan. You’re sitting next to and across from the other people there getting infusion. Making eye contact with them. And the room is full.
It’s impossible not to wonder about these other patients. Where they were in their journeys? Had they just started, or were they old pros like me? Was the medicine working? How did they make it through these long stretches of time? Did they read or sleep or stare at their phone? What about the people there with them? How did they wile away the hours on the uncomfortable chair, wrapped in the warm brown blankets provided by the hospital. Were they keeping their hope? Or were they just sick of it all. Or perhaps both. I’ve felt both. Often at the same time.
Because every chair has a person. And every person is a story. How do they make it through this? How do they afford it? How do they continue to to show up treatment after treatment for hours at a time to do this thing that will make them feel sick on the hope that it makes this thing go away for a while?
This is what I wonder now, sitting in those old familiar chairs. Who are these people? These beautiful people on this cold Winter morning that was actually the Fall. These lives in this club we’re all a part of. A club that no one asked to join.