She drives her car. I sit beside her. She walks into the building and immediately sits down on the bench in the entranceway. Out of breath. Woozy. She leads the way to the elevator and pushes the button for the 4th floor. A man with a bald head like hers and a cheeky smile wishes the two of us a Happy Valentine’s Day. I think she sees him here often. She leads the way to the reception desk. She leads the way the window-filled treatment room. She goes straight to the scale to be weighed. She engages in some banter with the nurses and a newbie here from the local hospital, here to practice accessing ports, because they don’t get enough of that in the hospital. The process of accessing her port is bloodier than I had expected. Her humor and calm are more than I had expected. I sit in what seems to be a side-car seat attached to her clinical recliner. And the two of us stare at this…
They run blood tests and a sheet comes back with numbers I don’t understand. The nurses talk to her about her hemoglobin. Some sort of problem. They inject something to ward off nausea. There are three little bags of pre-meds. Takes over an hour. Followed by two big bags of chemo, Taxol. Her last treatment in this round. We will be here for three or four hours. She doesn’t want the TV, or a snack, or a magazine or word puzzle. She doesn’t want the foot rest because she wants to swing her legs, dance around.
Other adults come and go, getting the shots they get during their off-weeks from treatment. She is the only one here to stay for chemo.
While we wait, she writes the nurses a check. Co-pays are due at the time of treatment.
“Usually the chairs are full. It is rather lonely today.” she says.
Even when cancer patients have friends and family around them during treatment, it can be a lonely place. I see it in their eyes. From Cairo to Michigan. There is a strength and sense of company that only they can find.
That only Hussein can find.
That only my mom can find.
And today is Valentine’s Day.
Happy Valentine’s Day to anyone around the world, of any age, keeping themselves company on this journey to rid themselves of cancer.