Today was good. I managed to work all day, although I was pretty tired at the end of the day. It felt good to do something “normal.” I feel like I’m beginning the turn from yucky to better days for this cycle and anticipate each day getting better than the one before. :)
It’s not a club that I ever wanted to join, this Cancer Patient Club. The other members are nice and all, but I really don’t want to hang out with them. Not like this, anyway.
This isn’t like most clubs or organizations that people choose to join. We’re all here against our will, almost by default. Once you are diagnosed with some form of cancer, you instantly become a member of the club – no questions asked. It doesn’t matter how young or old you are, how much or little money you have, or if you are white, black, or purple. The club doesn’t care. Sadly, all are welcome and the membership lasts a lifetime. Even if you are blessed enough to be cured or have your cancer go into remission, you will always be a part of the club. Once a cancer patient, always a cancer patient.
I sit here each Monday morning waiting for labs to be drawn. Not everyone in the waiting area is a member of the club. Many have been brought by a spouse, child, friend, or a caregiver. Some are just alone.
It’s easy to spot the members, though. They smile gently at me, as if to say “Welcome. I’m sorry that you are here.” Some of them walk a little more slowly than they should. Some have lost their hair. Others wear a faint smile in the midst of their obvious discomfort. They are almost all kind and humble. And there’s almost always an air of gratitude about them, a sense that they are happy to be here today or at least happy to have another day, another chance to fight the beast.
The faces are familiar. Not because I know them or have seen them so many times, although I have seen a few on repeated visits. They are familiar in the sense that we are now similar people, walking a shared path, hoping for the same outcome – a cure, remission, miraculous healing.
I’m a little younger than many in here. Most days, I think I look pretty good – dressed for work, don’t yet look too frail or sickly – but they instantly recognize me for what I am. They know the look. The look of a freshness, a newbie. The one who is still fighting to not be a part of this club. The one who hasn’t completely accepted that cancer is a part of her new normal.
Maybe it’s the dear-in-the-headlights feeling I still have each time I walk in there. That look of “what in the world am I doing here??” Maybe it’s the way my eyes constantly roam the room taking in every aspect of it or the constant swinging of my crossed leg as I try to convince myself that I’m not as tired as I feel – that I’m not as tired as they look. No matter. They recognize me…because they used to be me.
They extend a hand of conversation to me in snippets. “I felt pretty good this weekend, but today’s a rough one,” says one older gentleman. He sits slightly hunched over, as if sitting up straight requires too much effort – effort that he can’t afford to spare today. A middle-aged woman comments that “it’s good to get in here early and get this over with before it gets too crowded.” I respond, but only minimally. I’m not sure I can handle their stories yet. I’m not sure I’m ready to hear about their successes and failures at battling this disease. So I keep my distance, politely interacting with a smile or short sentence when needed.
Engaging in conversation means that I have become one them. But I don’t want to be one of them. I don’t want to walk slowly and sit carefully. I don’t want to look pale and frail. I don’t want to have that hollow, slightly bruised look around my eyes. I don’t want to wear the focused, yet distant look of nausea – that look you get when you are trying not to breath or see or sense anything, anything at all, that might make you sick.
But the truth is that I am like them. Thankfully, I don’t expect my treatment to take me down some of the very long, incredibly hard roads they are walking, but I’m just like them. And thankfully, I’m still at a point where I can take myself for labs, and go to work most days in between treatments. I don’t have to have someone to drive me, but when I want someone, he’s there. I am so lucky, and so blessed.
No, I don’t want to be a member of this club. But I am. And will accept this membership for now and look forward with BELIEF and HOPE to the day when I can trade in my membership card for one that says “Cancer Survivor!”