The People of Chemo – Part 1

Today in the waiting room I met Mary. She looked at my tan arms and asked where I got my sun from. When I told her I lived in the country, she explained she was in a little apartment with her cats and that she only got the sun in her windows for about 15 minutes a day. Then she told me she was here for an iron infusion, “not that stuff you’re getting”.

“The poison?” I asked.

She laughed and nodded. “I’ve already been through that,” she told me. “Pretty soon they’re gonna tell me I have to do it again, and I’m going to tell them no.”

I asked her if it was too much for her and she said she had cancer in her bone marrow and she said it wasn’t worth it to be so sick when it wasn’t curable. The chemo kills her white blood cells and since the cancer is in her bone marrow, where the blood cells grow, she said her blood cells wouldn’t grow back.

“I’ve made my peace with God, so I’m okay with it,” she said with a smile. I told her that my mother-in-law had done the same. Mary had a very similar personality to my mother-in-law as well — very strong and beautiful – and even looked a bit like her. God bless both of these strong women!

Carmella is another lady that I see if I have my chemo on a Wednesday. How to describe her?  She’s loud. She seems a bit self-involved. One day she sat in the infusion chair next to mine and I had a terrible headache. She talked very loudly to the nurses. She fiddled with her car keys. And these weren’t any normal car keys. It was a big long lanyard that had various large keys, a couple of big charms, and even a small picture frame clipped to it. Large and loud!

She sat and fiddled and jiggled and jangled that key chain until I thought my head was going to explode. Then she dropped it in between the cracks of her chair. Our chairs are only a few feet away from each other. She pushed the foot rest back down with a big squeak, then jumped down from the chair (she’s too short to reach the floor easily) and bent over with her butt in my face as she dug around in the crack of the chair. She caught hold of the lanyard and she yanked and jiggled and pulled, her butt flailing at me as she moved back and forth. The keys banged against the chair, and against the picture frame and against the charms.

Finally the lanyard came out, but everything else got left behind in the chair. So the nurse came over to help her. As she was digging around in the crack, Carmella started pushing the foot rest up and down to “help”. The nurse yelped and told her to please not move the foot rest while her arm was in there. It took a few minutes, but she got all the pieces out and gave them to Carmella to reassemble her monstrous keychain.

Carmella hopped back up in her chair and sque-e-e-eaked the foot rest back in place, then adjusted, re-adjusted, grunted, groaned and wiggled until she was comfortable. Each chair has a little t.v. on an extended arm, and she had moved it over to about a foot from her face but facing me, and had the volume on loud, which fit her personality as I’ve already said. My head was just banging and I had to close my eyes to shut out the sights and sounds.

She told the nurses that her port was infected again and so they called for the doctor to come in and check it. Some people who are getting chemo get a port surgically implanted into their skin, near their collarbone (I have good big veins so I had a choice not to have a port). She described in great detail to them about how it had some pus leaking out around it and how it smelled rotten. I was nearly gagging from the thought of it and from my migraine. 😦

The doctor finally came in and pulled the curtain around Carmella’s chair to examine her. I was so grateful for the respite from watching and hearing her wiggle and the sound of the t.v.  But it only lasted a few minutes because when the doctor was done, Carmella pulled the curtain wide open again and turned her t.v. back up.

I was so uncomfortable and so annoyed. But then as I sat there with my eyes closed, I began to listen.

“Carmella, what’s wrong?” asked one of the nurses.

“I left my phone at home. I never do that. I don’t know what to do. The taxi is supposed to pick me up at 2, but it looks like I’ll be done early. I guess I can just sit around and wait for them to come back.”

It turns out, Carmella lives alone. She doesn’t have a car and has to rely on public transportation. She has no one who can bring her here. She has no one at home waiting for her to get done with her treatment so that they can get her water, and help her eat crackers, and help her lay down on the couch and cover her up when she feels so sick. No one to ask her if she’s okay, or if she needs anything. No one to make certain she is taking her anti-nausea medicine and drinking enough water. No one.

The nurses here are very caring. They made a phone call to the taxi to make certain that the taxi would be here waiting when Carmella was done with her treatment. They care. It made me think long and hard about my attitude.

Now, I say prayers for Carmella (Please – if you say prayers for me, say them for Carmella* as well). When I see her I am glad to see that she’s doing okay. I remember how good I have it, with my family and my friends, and my health insurance, and enough finances to own my own car.

It made me realize that Carmella was not the self-involved person. I was. And as for loud? Make all the noise you can in life – while you can – because you just never know. Just ask Mary.


* I did not use her real name, but if you say prayers for her- you can use the name Carmella – God will know exactly who you are talking about. 🙂


5 thoughts on “The People of Chemo – Part 1

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