I know you guys have good imaginations. Just last week I asked you to imagine my excessive farts going up in flames, and I’m sure you did just that. In retrospect, so sorry I put you through that.
Today, I want you to imagine what it was like for me to enter the Cancer Centre for the first time. (I don’t want you to imagine what you would feel like entering the Cancer Centre for the first time because…well, God forbid.) This first time, a cancer virgin, I was a basket case. Maybe “deer in the headlights” is better. I may have spent weeks in the adjoining hospital as an inpatient, but when I had time to wander, I never walked into the Cancer Centre. Who hangs out in the Cancer Centre if she doesn’t have cancer?
Now that J. and I are experienced Cancer Centre visitors, we can spot the cancer virgins from a mile away. They look terrified and overwhelmed and confused, just like I must have looked that first day. I wish I could pull them aside and let them know they’ll be well cared for–that part I trust–and everything will be okay. But for some of them, everything won’t be okay, so I put on my most welcoming face and hope that helps.
As a Cancer Centre regular, I now know the receptionists by name, I know where the washrooms are, I know I have to weigh myself whether I want to or not, I know where to wait and that, if I’m lucky, the Cookie Ladies will arrive with their wares before I’m called in. I know that there’s a gift-basket raffle every year around Christmas, and, after buying several tickets each year and not winning, I make a pact to be alive to throw my money away again the next year. Knowing the routine makes it easier for me to cope.
Last Tuesday, my deer reappeared when I went to radiation for the first time: I wasn’t sure exactly where I needed to go or what I needed to do. I knew only that someone would be expecting me at 10:15 a.m. I approached a different receptionist–“I’m here for that special glow,” I told her–and entered an unfamiliar treatment room. Everyone I dealt with was very nice, walking me through the procedure step by step. Still, anything new is scary, especially when it has to do with cancer.
Tomorrow, when I show up for my second zapping, I’ll know where to go and what to expect. I may have different Radiators but I’m sure they’ll be as nice as last week’s. And, just as I did last week, I’ll imagine them flying through the air in their spandex superhero outfits, shrinking my spleen into oblivion.
And so I ask you to remember, in case you’re ever the deer in the headlights, that often the deer doesn’t get hit and die. Sometimes the deer manages to dodge the car or the car avoids hitting the deer. And the next time the deer sees those bright lights, she’ll know just what to do. Everything will be okay, right?
P.S. Good thing I abandoned the virgin imagery, don’t you think?