Today was another six-month checkup with my oncologist. It has been seven years, but there is still a twinge of fear every time I step into his office. As I enter the building today, I look at the sign next to the elevator that points out to me the oncology/hematology suite on the third floor. I wonder once again how that could possibly be a place I would need to visit.
My checkup is fine as usual. Then I am escorted to the lab to have blood drawn. The lab is an open area next to the chemotherapy infusion room. Today the three chairs within my vision are empty, but I can hear a woman speaking softly to someone from the chair just outside my field of vision. I have a flashback to the times I went with my sister to her chemo treatments. We sat together like the two women at the end of the room, talking softly and laughing together. I wonder how it is possible for someone sitting there with the poisonous liquid coursing through her veins to hold a conversation like it was occurring over a cup of coffee in her kitchen. My sister did that. I just don’t really know where such strength would come from.
The nurse draws my blood and places it into the machine for analysis. When the report has printed, I am free to go. For a moment as I sat there, I was wishing my sister was still with me, but then I realized that I did not want her to have to go through chemotherapy again or have her blood drawn to see if the cancer had returned. I miss her voice, her laughter, her camaraderie with the nurses and with everyone she came into contact with. Today she would have tried to get our oncologist to laugh or maybe just smile a little. She had an uncanny ability to bring light into the darkest moments of life.
Every time I enter that medical building, that oncology suite, I feel pain in my heart for the suffering the patients are enduring. But then I listen to them talk with their family members who are with them, and I watch them go to the window and schedule more appointments and more tests, smiling at the receptionists, joking a little, a radiance emanating from them even in their illness. I admire them. And I think that maybe my sister’s spirit is really a part of their ability to cope, that maybe she is with me after all.