On the day last February that I started my second round of chemo, I had a bizarre encounter with the woman in the next room. I shared it with my online support group in the form of a hypothetical letter, and have decided to share it with you.
Dear lady in the next chemo room,
Do not ever, ever come up to another patient and play the poor-pitiful-me-I’ve-got-cancer card. It’s too bad that you have stage 3 cancer and that you have to have chemo, but you really need to unlock the shared bathroom door, and I do not think that it’s out of line to point out to you that I’ve been locked out of the bathroom twice already today. And I really had to go!
I wanted to say fuck you, my cancer is worse than yours, but that was not somewhere I wanted to go. I said something about this being hard on everyone. We all react differently to the stress and she is entitled to hers, but I was surprised at how angry I was when she said her little piece and left in tears.
My online support group rallied around me and soothed my ruffled feathers, but very quickly I somehow ended up defending her. It sounds strange, but I had soon realized that despite me being angry about her outburst and unwarranted invitation to a cancer-off, I had something that she didn’t have. I had support.
Throughout my treatment, my husband was by my side every step of the way. There aren’t words enough to express what he gave me. I hope that he knows the depths of my appreciation. And this anonymous woman in the next room was there by herself. Through hours of chemo she lay on a bed with no companionship, only the busy nurses coming in and out of the room to change her medications. I had someone to go into her room to ask to unlock the door, to bring me drinks, to hold my hand, and to watch over me as I dozed. Despite my more aggressive cancer, I was the lucky one.
The unit social worker at the chemo center stopped by the following week during my next treatment to discuss some paperwork issues. I talked with her about what had happened and suggested that she look up who the woman had been and to see if she needed additional support. My online group was kind of amazed at this and gave me some undeserved kudos for my actions. To me it was a no brainer – having to go through this alone is almost inconceivable.
And the point of today’s rambling is to talk about a family who have taken this attitude above and beyond anything I’ve ever encountered. When my cousin recently developed metastases 8 years after her initial breast cancer fight, her sisters sprang into action. They have been what seems to be a marvelous support to her, but no one more so than her sister Fiona, who has moved from another province to be with her sister and to help her with her treatment, diet, exercise, and life in general. Way to go, Dixon ladies! And to those of you reading, please add my cousin in Victoria to your prayers in support of her fight.