You’d think sitting in a semicircle next to half a dozen cancer patients with a needle taped in your arm during a conversation with your doctor would be a really vulnerable, uncomfortable experience. Instead it’s a little bit like support group.
The gist of the conversation? This isn’t working.
Head in hands, I listened. The doctor was using his bad news face. I’ve seen it used on other people but never on me.
When the nurse pulled my IV out for the last time, she threw everything away and stopped. She looked at me for a moment. Not pity, just observing.
“So you probably don’t have any questions.”
“No, I’ve heard it all before. There are only so many options,” I said.
“We’ll get you through it.”
I smiled and started packing my bag. Earlier that day I passed a visitor with my IV pole in tow, an older woman. I don’t know who she was there to visit. She had her purse and a cup of coffee, and she looked at me a little sheepishly. Then she offered a half smile, like, I’m so sorry. I wanted to say, “It’s not what it looks like!” But maybe it was. Maybe it is.
Stuffing my blanket back into a bag, I looked back up at my nurse, shrugging. “This is my life now.”
She has been attentive to me, even when she wasn’t my nurse, careful to understand everything I’m feeling. My emotional well being has always been a part of what’s considered “vitals.”
I’d spent the last four hours looking at that needle, knowing we were concluding my fourth week of chemo. And it isn’t working. The chemo – the more aggressive approach – isn’t working. And the new plan is maintenance. I’m a patient on call. Whatever my body decides to do, I follow. I can’t book a flight or plan a vacation or schedule dinner with a friend without a refund plan or an exit clause.
I’m refractory to all of the treatments we’ve tried. Now we take it literally one week at a time. Cautious waiting, careful watching. The new treatment plan.
This is my life now.
My nurse seemed to accept that answer. I think she wanted me to say what patients are supposed to say, to be vulnerable. I’m not okay. I want my life back, my old life. I don’t want to see another needle. Instead, I end up saying things that comfort and reassure other people. Those nurses especially. They see a lot of final chapters in people’s lives. But I don’t want her to feel sorry on my behalf.
It’s going to be okay. My God will meet all my needs. He’s given me so much strength. His promises mean we have nothing to fear.
I keep saying all the things I say to myself every day.
This is my life now.
“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17 (NIV)