Yesterday morning when I walked out of radiation, I saw a woman sitting by herself in the waiting room of the Cancer Center. From her little bag, I knew she was waiting for chemo. I'd seen her before, and she is always alone, sitting quietly. I stopped to speak with her. In the course of the conversation, she calmly told me that she was terminal. As a nurse, she understood what was in store for her. Not wanting to overburden her husband too far ahead in the game, she was handling her chemo and her radiation herself. She was so calm that I could be calm right back. I asked her, "Aren't you afraid to drive yourself home?" Although chemo was not a horrible experience for me, I do remember leaving with sparks before my eyes, ringing ears. Turning my head caused an odd disoriented feeling, not quite dizziness...I just did not feel right. I usually came home and took a little nap. By the time that I got up a couple hours later, things had begun to settle down. I could not have imagined driving myself home. I'd have been afraid to. I asked my question, and the quiet woman admitted that sometimes the drive home was tough, but she didn't have far to go. We talked about our children, and how you help them with such news. We visited for about 5 minutes, but we talked a lot.
By that time, other people started coming in. I talked to T-----, a woman that went to school with Tim. She is younger than he is, but shockingly, looks 10 years older. She is a quiet woman too. She sits and shivers with her mom. Our church provided her with a prayer shawl to wrap herself in during treatments. She had seen mine, and loved it so. Another woman came in and I complimented her on her regrown hair. She never wore a wig. I tell her that I thought she was the bravest of us all, to face the world with her bald head, and not mind in the least. She said that she did mind, but couldn't wear her wig, that it irritated her tender scalp something awful. She had no choice.
We talked about that too. An elderly woman had come in as we were talking and was listening with great interest but saying nothing. Our nurse friend is having chemo and daily radiation simultaneously. We all mulled that over. I said that I was not sure that I could have handled both at the same time. Even as I said it, I knew that was wrong. I spoke again, and the elderly woman chimed in...we spoke almost in unison. "No. That is not right. You just deal with it because you don't have a choice."
One nurse. A mother and her daughter. A woman with newly grown hair. An elderly woman. Me. We sat there in the quiet of the morning waiting room, united by our experiences, recognizing the truth of the situation. What can't be changed must be endured.