I went to the hospital yesterday. We parked in the same garage, on the same floor, walked down the same long halls marked cancer hospital, as we have for six years now.
I remember the very first time I walked through that hospital in November of 2015. There was a distinct smell back then that has stuck with me. I cannot quite put my finger on it. Musk perfume from Walgreens, mixed with strong, black coffee in a styrofoam cup and a splash of bleach?
Patients look up as they walk slowly hoping to capture smiling eyes from fellow patients, reassuring them it is not that bad. Doctors walk fast-paced down the corridors, looking down plotting out their next move. It can be a predictable place, day after day, week after week, month after month….for six years.
Yesterday did not feel the same though.
Knowing this was my last chemo-the big number 6, my youngest shouted, “are you gonna ring the bell Momma?’ My husband, remembering ringing that bell six years ago, joined in on the excitement, too. Bless them both for always being the BEST cheerleaders I could ever ask for.
I proceeded into the chemo suite with my husband. I need his help getting the cold cap on my head. However, before the door even had a chance to shut between the waiting room and the infusion room the nurse reminded him he had to leave right after he helped me get settled. We rushed to get the cold cap on, plugged in and meds flowing. He kissed me goodbye and said, “ I am proud of you”.
I watched him scurry out of that place as fast as he could. If he had been wearing a white coat, I would have mistaken him for a doctor. He has a lot on his mind and while he has been doing this for 6 years, it doesn’t get any easier. There aren’t any bells to ring for the spouses, the children or the family members who are going through this every, single minute with you. They are the true survivors in my book.
My head immediately began to freeze solid, the headache set in and the meds began their slow drip. After 6 long hours, alone in that chair the nurse returned to tell me I was finished. I was done with my 6 treatments of chemotherapy. She asked, “are you going to ring the bell?”
As I went to stand my legs hurt so badly I faked like I had to read a text until I felt stable. I am weaker than I have ever been. I am as tired as I was while feeding my newborns every hour on the hours years ago. My limbs do not belong to me anymore for I cannot feel my feet. I felt the tears coming. Six treatments done (again!). Six years fighting…
I packed up my bags and I put a hat over my ice-soaked hair and held my head up and walked out of there. Yes, I paused next to that damn bell…but I didn’t ring it. Not this time. I gulped down that huge lump in my throat and strutted out of there like I owned the place.
Round 6, year 6…Now that deserves a shot! Cheers.