We’ve all logged hours in one waiting room or another — the doctor’s office for a sick child, waiting on news of a loved one undergoing surgery, perhaps awaiting the arrival of the newest family member or in airports, subways, trains, movies, amusement parks. We spend a lot of time waiting.
Some waits are enjoyable, others rife with anxiety or despair.
This waiting room is, for lack of a better word, special. It is the great equalizer. All in it are undergoing treatment. For some it will be a cure, for others it will only allow a bit more time to get matters in order and perhaps alleviate some of the pain.
Looking at those waiting in this room, it’s much more difficult than you’d think to pick out who belongs to which group. But you quickly form relationships — you know the person who gets their treatment before you on “your” machine. It’s a relief when their pager sounds because you know you’re up next. You know when each one is supposed to arrive for treatment and experience some anxiety if they are missing, worried that they’re too ill to continue, only to be relieved after learning they’ve changed their appointment time.
And you know when each one is having a good day or a bad day.
Today was a bad day in the waiting room. You can tell by the way Mr. W is slumped in his seat, weary, nauseated and hurting. You can tell when Mrs. C arrives carrying an emesis basin and heads directly to the ladies room looking very pale. And we haven’t seen Mrs. F in a few days — this was supposed to be her last week of palliative treatment.
You know that Mr. W will finish his treatments the day after you — he’s trying so very hard not to get a PEG tube but is losing weight, swallowing is excruciating. He hates to get it when he only has 10 more treatments.
You learn that Mrs. C comes every day from Lafayette, her husband driving her an hour each way. Today, thankfully, is her last treatment; they condensed her program to help with the travel but double dose treatments are even harder.
Today, she is shaking she is so weak, but still gifts us with some snickerdoodles she baked last night when she felt better. Our prayers are with her as she faces surgery in the coming weeks, hoping that she won’t lose her eyesight. She brightens momentarily when I tell her to ring that bell LOUD today.
That’s everyone’s goal — to ring the Celebration Bell! Treatment is over — your body can begin to heal!
I’ve looked anxiously for Mrs. F and her mom the past two days. Despite changing her treatment time to later, we would still see them briefly. They come from St. Francisville, mother and daughter gift shop owners. At first, I thought her mom was the patient. Mrs. F was so vivacious; she didn’t look ill at all. We spent some time talking on one of JT’s bad days, and she confided that she had very limited time left. It hit me hard. I couldn’t fathom that this woman so full of life, seemingly so strong, was limited to so few finite days.
And when Mrs. F had her bad day, I spoke at length with her mom. You’d never guess mom was in her 80s. She drives her daughter every day for treatments, with the hope that it will provide her with some relief and a few more days to put her life in order. Mrs. F has a plantation filled with an accumulation of antiques and history to sell.
Not having any children, she has no one able to provide the care an old home like that requires.
So we are a family of sorts here in the waiting room of Mary Bird Perkins Radiation Center.
Tomorrow, I hope we hear someone ring that bell LOUD! We need to hear that.
— Mayo lives in Baton Rouge
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