chemo 2.4.1: arriving for treatment

guarded and shaking
with fear, patients arrive at
Chao with tears concealed
when they step inside,
though, warm smiles greet them
thriving oasis

♦     ♦     ♦     ♦     ♦

I am receiving my treatment at University of California, Irvine, where I also work. With this kind of association, often you have mixed feelings. You wonder whether your privacy may feel compromised because you know so many people, but you also know you are surrounded by familiar faces who are both knowledgeable and caring.

Ever since I stepped that first trembling foot in the door at Chao, I have been amazed at the sensitive and caring manner of the staff. Employees who do not even know you smile and greet you as you walk through the door. They offer to help you if they see you are struggling with your wheelchair or walker. The valet service is always willing to help you when you, er, leave your keys in the car parked nearby 🙂 (not that this would ever happen to Ms. Chemo Brain).

After my original diagnosis in 2004, when I started chemo in August, I brought with me the big teddy bear that Marvin gave me to help keep my left arm elevated. In 2009 when I returned to Chao for radiation (2/24–3/30/09), I was surprised when the nurses asked me, Where’s your big teddy bear. It didn’t end there. Even staff sitting behind desks I passed along the way said, Aren’t you the one who used to have the big teddy bear–where is he. Marvin has since found my buddy Boz who doesn’t miss the occasion to ride my walker with me on my treatment days.

Today, I walked through the door with a little pep after my one week’s chemo respite. Staff were hurrying around me, but one woman in bright pink headed for the door past the elevators. Without missing a beat, she jabbed the elevator button and smiled and asked if I needed help. It was like she couldn’t think of passing me by without offering assistance. She is typical of the people you find working at Chao.

To us who are navigating, often dazedly, the cancer maze, it means a great deal to know that people we encounter there care. If the cookies run out in the waiting room, the staff offer to hunt down one for the patient who inquires. It’s the sort of thing that is not necessary but it makes you feel they personally care about you. It’s the sort of thing that brightens your dark and scary day. It’s the sort of thing that, oddly, makes you look forward to seeing people there when you totally dread facing your treatment or test and detest the reality of your situation.

I should write a letter to let it be known that the smiles, the greetings, the good wishes and the warm gestures really make patients feel that we are entering a very special place with extraordinary people.

I thank you all.

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