Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Problem With Radiation

One of the trickier things for me during the radiation process was navigating the radiation waiting room. The room (hallway might be a more accurate term, since it was open on both ends) was probably 12-14 feet long and maybe 8 or 9 feet across. There were chairs lined up all in a row on both sides with small tables located somewhat in the middle of the row that held books and magazines. One of the tables had an unplugged CD/radio combo sitting on it. Thankfully (for me, at least) there was no television.  There were a few inspirational things hanging on the wall and a bulletin board with all kinds of notes and messages for the staff, a collection of thank yous that I assume were built up over the years and had to be stuck somewhere.

There was a clock on the wall that I nearly tore off the wall and stomped to pieces one day when I was the only one waiting. The ticking was so loud and rudely intruded upon my thoughts. But most of the time there were other women around, waiting their turn with the Machine.

The tricky thing was that I never really knew how to behave, always had to wonder, "is it going to be an introvert day or an extrovert day?" I'm not good at initiating conversations so if the tone was left up to me it was always an introvert day. I'd come in, maybe the other woman (women) would look up and we'd make eye contact and maybe utter a small greeting, then we'd each disappear back into our own heads, or old magazines, silently waiting to be called.

Other days, I'd arrive and there would be hearty greetings and talk about the traffic coming in to the hospital, or about home and when we would return, or how many treatments we had left. In the beginning I heard a couple of women talking about the "red devil" chemo treatment. Inside I was horrified and grateful I didn't have to deal with that. Many times, I also felt slightly guilty over still having my hair.

I joked with a friend that on the days the waiting area was crowded my space was going to be invaded by someone sitting in the chair next to me. She laughed and said they were just friends I hadn't yet met.
Maybe true but the time was so fleeting.

I had a brief encounter a couple of days with this woman who seemed to be a little bit older than me. She usually wore all black and had a lithe body. When she told me she did Zumba 6 days a week, I told her I'd have a tough time with Zumba because I have no rhythm and can't dance. She answered that people say that but it's just like painting or other art, anyone can do it. They just have to practice and let go of...and then she was called back for her appointment. Dang it. After that, the story I built in my head about her was that maybe she was a dancer before, an eccentric artsy-fartsy type of woman who was very secure in herself and her body. I think I would have liked to have gotten to know her better.

There were others too. But only small snippets of conversation and a shared threat hold me to them. We never even exchanged names.

Still, I wonder sometimes how they are all doing.


  1. I bet they wonder about you, too.

  2. I know you meant to say "shared thread" at the end, but please leave it. It's just as true that you faced a shared threat.

    1. I don't know whether to feel brilliant or dumb! I meant threat! I never even thought of thread!

  3. I liked reading this reflection of what the waiting room was like. I hadn't thought about that before. I'm glad you didn't have that extreme version that made your hair fall out, too. You made me reflect on many things with this post. Thanks.


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