I’ve been at this cancer thing for quite a while now. These are the objects that tie me to cancer and treatment without question.
My port tells the story of ease and comfort for treatments. It’s used to get blood draws for labs. Premeds and any injections take this route into my body. Chemotherapies, infusions, and whatever else my body needs go in through the port. Mine has been a companion for years and started to not work. A protein flap builds up over it and prevents a blood return. Fluids still go in but a blood return is needed for it to be labeled fully functional and meet criteria for being used for treatment. Alteplase is injected and left in for an hour to eat through the block and get a blood return. In the meantime, patients raise their arms, arch their backs, turn their heads, and contort in all sorts of uncomfortable and comical positions with hopes one of these positions will position the port into a position that allows for blood return.
Last winter, my port had finally had enough and leaked. It took a couple of months to conclude this, and then a couple of tries to get one that worked effectively. All works perfectly now and I am back to a story of ease and comfort. Some still prefer a line placed in the arm and removed after every visit. They have good veins. Perhaps treatments are spread far enough apart for them. Maybe they only have a 6 month course of treatment and know they will be done at some point in the future. Not me. I’m in it for the long haul and my port is in it with me.
The waiting room tells a story of waiting. It also tells a story of worry and anxiety. Schedules get thrown off and I wait a little longer. I look around at who else waits. Not many come alone. Most have a spouse or a support person. They all have their own stories and objects that help tell them. In the waiting room, we are all in the same place waiting to go somewhere slightly different. It’s like the gate area at an airport. Some may be boarding a plane of early diagnosis. Some just flew in for a yearly check and they’ll shortly return to the rest of their lives. Then there are the frequent flyers like me who come often. It doesn’t matter how often I come, the waiting is the same. To read more about the stories of waiting rooms, click here.
Office Visit Room:
Stories of the exam room are mixed. There’s more waiting in this room. With my first oncologist, there was more calm and predictability to visits. He addressed all my concerns, comforted me when needed, and always did an exam. He taught me tons. My current oncologist works in a larger setting – a center within a hospital – and there have been times I’ve felt like I’m on a treatment assembly line. She is an expert, dedicated, and friendly. I work a lot harder to be heard and get what I need, but I do it. Since I’ve been struggling lately, she has shown more empathy. I never know exactly what I’m going to get when I’m in the room for an office visit. It’s unpredictable. I never know for sure what I’m going to get as my office room. The room itself is sterile and pretty much like all the others, devoid of personality.
The powerful and hazardous liquid in those bags tells the story of treatment. It’s the reason I’m there. Cancer. I have prayed holding the bag before infusion started. I don’t do that anymore since the nurses dress up in protective gear to hang the bag and get it dripping. I’ve sent Reiki energy to the bag during treatment. I’ve felt depressed, angry, and out of my mind while there. I’ve felt empowered because something was being done to kill cancer cells.
The treatment room is another area of mixed feelings and different stories. It has been a story of smooth sailing in the past. I’ve enjoyed visiting with nurses. It has even been, dare I say, relaxing. It felt like a natural part of the landscape. I felt I belonged. When I switched treatment centers, the story was revised. It became a story of mild to moderate discomfort. I struggled to belong. The nurses were a bit short with me if they spoke at all. I counted the seconds until I could leave and return to a world where I was more comfortable and felt like a real person. This story has been revised again over time. It feels like home. The nurses know me and we have conversations. I receive comfort while I’m there. I take naps.
Due to scheduling, I’m usually the first one in the chair in the morning. I wonder who will be using the chair after me and what cancer story they would tell. Would they cold cap? The cooling machine is in the bottom left of the photo. How are they feeling?
The MRI and PET machines tells stories of regression, stability, or progression. I’ve been fortunate to have a few scans show regression. Results now tend to be more often progression. Scans also tell the stories of claustrophobia and scanxiety. I realized during my last MRI that the claustrophobia has all but disappeared. It’s about time after nine years. You get used to things after so many years. The scanxiety was almost gone, too. Results from the MRI were already read and released by the time I got home. I prefer it this way so I have time for feelings and plan my questions. I may be upset with the results, but I don’t have to wait for them. It takes a lot off my mind.
Objects have stories. I can look around my house and am able to retell the stories of buying certain pieces of furniture, why a few decorative items are important to me, and recall stories of a few professional objects that remain. As a storyteller, I love collecting and sharing stories. Okay, not as much the cancer stories, but they need telling too.