Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Great Equalizer

Donna has a regular schedule of chemotherapy treatments: Tuesday, Friday, Tuesday, Friday, then an off week, then Tuesday, Friday, Tuesday, Friday, and an off week, etc. On Tuesdays she gets one IV bag of chemotherapy and one IV bag of the clinical trial drug;on Fridays she gets chemotherapy only. In between the two weeks of chemotherapy she gives herself shots to boost her white blood cell production. On the off weeks between chemotherapy cycles, she usually has scans to measure the progress—so far the success!—of the treatments.

Not everyone at Infusion on Tuesdays and Fridays is on the same drug or in the clinical trial as Donna, but we have come to know, or at least recognize, the regulars. There is the African American woman in her late fifties whose Jewish husband accompanies her. Another African American woman, who is an employee of the hospital, has coworkers stopping by all day for a few minutes at a time. There is the woman, Indian I believe, also probably in her fifties, who is accompanied by her sister--who could be her twin, they look so much alike!  And there is the woman Donna’s age, also Caucasian, with whom Donna shared stories and is now friendly, who has a 7 year old and a 10 year old at home, and who drives herself there from New York, on the exact same schedule as Donna. Yesterday I was so glad to see that she had a friend with her. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone there with her! And I don’t know how she does that drive herself. Sadly, there was a newcomer yesterday, ten years younger than Donna and I, from the Bronx. She was with her mother.

So I stand corrected that potty humor is the great equalizer. Cancer is. There are people out there, although I don't know many (any) of them, who would not get a laugh out of a whoopee cushion, who go through life thinking that one of the things that separates them from people like me is immaturity/being crass/potty humor, Blah Blah. I say, go ahead, then, think we're different. But in the end we're not. Stop by Infusion someday at a cancer hospital, where I hope you never find yourself on the receiving end of an IV line, where despite differences in race or class or age or favorite brand of humor, every one is the same: human beings fighting cancer: the great, but evil, equalizer...where a whoopee cushion--or the laugh that follows--might be the best thing a person hears all day.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. I encourage you to reach out to someone with cancer, to share a laugh. And make an appointment for a mammogram if you’re due.

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