Radiation treatments kinda suck. Racing back and forth from my office during lunch, never knowing when to eat. No matter when I do, I still end up feeling peckish and annoyed. And then there’s the awful feeling that toxic waves are not only ridding my body of breast cancer, they’re also zapping my energy, scarring my skin and causing me to glow green.
I’m trying to be positive (it is the Christmas season after all), but frankly, I’m the Gloomy Gus among the ultra-cheery nurses and patients. They’re so damn joyful, in fact, it makes me want to scream.
Take the lady who greets me at the front desk. “You made it!” she shrieks spastically--as if I might actually expire on the street during the walk from my job to the nearby hospital.
It’s quite possible, however, that I’ll drop dead waiting for the elevator. Radiation oncology is in the basement, along with maintenance and the morgue. No one goes down there. Shiny, happy people crowd elevators heading up to obstetrics and pediatrics, while I repeatedly punch the down button. It can take eight minutes to descend one floor.
Once I’m there and all gowned up, I take my place with the other women and brace myself for the arrival of the craft cart. Crafts. As if I’m six years old. Beading is popular with the cancer crowd, but there’s also drawing and painting. The ladies cackle and coo over their creations, talk about colors, the weather, their hair. I know I should be more sympathetic--some are having chemo and are worse off than me.
Yet it’s the crafts I just can’t stomach. Are they really that therapeutic and soothing? I never like crafting, even when I was little. The others seem to be having a ball discussing designs and trading beads. Invariably, someone will drop her tray, scattering the work everywhere. I spring into action, picking up the bits, trying to be helpful, not snide. I want to fit in with theses cancer ladies, but am I so bad off I need to string a teal necklace?
Perhaps I’ll feel differently later on. It’s only been a week; five more to go. Beading could grow on me? Or I might join the men--their waiting room is craft-free.
Reprinted with permission from Elizabeth Street. Want more?