Tomorrow will be number nine of the 20 scheduled radiation treatments I’m currently undergoing. So far, no obvious side effects–not even a breast tan. Today I fell into chatting with two fellow radiation patients while we waited together in the waiting room. One, a young college student, today marked her next-to-last session. She had an aggressive tumor removed from her brain and will have undergone 30 rad treatments, just to–as her doctors say, “make sure any miniscule bad cells were hiding in there. I failed to register in my memory the cancer site of the other woman who looked to be in her early 60, perhaps ovarian but I’m not sure. Her initial scan showed no surviving cancer cells, but I was struck by her remark–done in a “thinking out loud” sort of way–that survival rate for her cancer on a first-round basis was generally good, but NOT so good should she suffer a relapse. After her topical radiation is finished–6 more of 25–she’ll be back to undergo more radiation therapy, this time internal.
What I learned from this casual but surprisingly intimate conversation with strangers is that we all learn to cope, but we have in common that every one of us looks at life a little differently as a result of the experience. It’s probably redundant to say that we’ve all learned to separate the small stuff from the important stuff. Even better we now really understand that most stuff is small stuff, that’s just the way it is, and it’s too bad it takes a life altering experience to drive it home.
I was particularly struck by a remark from the older woman, that if by some magic she were given the opportunity to live her life completely over except without the cancer, she would say no. We all agreed we’ll never feel completely free anymore; there will always be that nagging fear no matter what all the scans reveal that it’ll come back.
That said, I think it’s a good idea to end the week, even though technically it’s not over, with a spot of humor.
* * * * * * *
After closing time at the bar, a drunk was proudly showing off his new apartment to a couple of his friends. He led the way to his bedroom where there was a big brass gong and a mallet.
“What’s up with the big brass gong?” one of his guests asked.
“It’s not a gong. It’s a talking clock,” the drunk said.
“A talking clock? Seriously?” asked his astonished friend.
“Yup,” replied the drunk.
“How’s it work?” the friend asked, squinting at it.
“Watch,” the drunk replied. He picked up the mallet, gave the gong an ear-shattering pound and stepped back.
The three stood looking at one another for a moment.
Suddenly a voice on the other side of the wall screamed …
“You asshole! It’s three-fifteen in the morning!”