The Cancer Club blood lab

You probably know that blood testing is a critical part of the whole cancer thing. Whatever the cancer, a visit to the Cancer Centre usually involves blood testing.

Getting into a blood lab in Calgary isn’t easy.  Crowds are large, lines are long, and appointments are recommended. It was standing room only last time I went, and the standing room was packed too. I feel guilty for walking in at my appointment time and getting called up promptly while so many appointment-less others have probably been waiting for hours.

The lab at the Cancer Centre is a bit different. Cancer Club members show up without appointments and are seen promptly. There’s some Club kinship as compared with the many grumpy patients waiting at other labs. At the Cancer Centre’s lab, some patients compare illnesses and treatment regimens but I don’t. Maybe I feel guilty for having it fairly easy compared to many others sitting in those chairs. I don’t look as glaringly sick as many others do, whether because of their illnesses or treatment regimens.

At the lab, the technician asks the spelling of our names and our birthdates, to make sure we haven’t sent in an imposter in our place, I guess. I listen keenly to the birthdates. Last time I was there, there was a woman thirty years older and another twenty years younger.  When older people have cancer, my heart doesn’t break the way it does when younger people do. No one younger than me should have to deal with this illness. I worry it would be lonelier and harder to have cancer when you’re young. I felt this to some degree when I realized, as a leukemia patient, that there were many more supports available for women my age with breast cancer. It’s lonely going to a Cancer Club social event when you have the “wrong” cancer.

As much as I don’t converse much with other patients at the Cancer Centre lab, last time I was there, I initiated a chat with the young woman beside me. I had noticed she was waiting with a friend and a baby, so I asked, in my typically nosy way, whether the baby was hers. In fact, her husband was at home caring for her two children under the age of 2. I then ventured a little closer to cancer and inquired about her energy. She said she was doing alright so far because she had to. She seemed spunky and positive despite her current health challenges. I guess we all muddle through when we have to, don’t we?

Would I have coped as well as this young woman had I been diagnosed with leukemia 20 years ago? I doubt it. In our quick chat, I was relieved to learn that she had good supports (her friend, her husband) and even better distractions (her children). I think of someone like her when I hear the term “cancer survivor”. I hope she can put this blip in her health behind her soon and get back to her most important job: being a young mom with two energetic kids.

 

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