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Walking Wounded

August 30, 2008

The scene in the waiting area of the cancer treatment floor was a little grim Thursday. I’m quite used to seeing folks who look much more “sick” than I am, but this particular day was a bit too David Lynch for my liking. Across from me were two very nice and very large ladies. One spoke through a tracheotomy speaker in her neck, the other sported a large boot cast on her leg. I’m not quite sure which one was getting treatment. The lovely lady next to me, frail and in mismatched clothes due to her skinny body and distended stomach, was sinking in to her happy place as pain meds kicked in. A big Polish lady with a walker wore the all too common bandana on her head, but inexplicably, it stood straight up in the air like an old diner waitress hat. The kicker was the guy in the helmet. An older gentlemen shuffled out of the treatment area and into a chair clad in a leather/vinyl helmet. Kind of a 30’s football/Snoopy Baron Flying Ace thing. He removed his headgear as he sat down, clearly revealing he’d had extensive surgery on his brain. Lordy.

So, as I sat sipping my Starbucks and reading Gourmet, I couldn’t help but feel like I didn’t belong here. I’m not skinny and bald. I don’t need assistance walking. I don’t wear a helmet. I just kept thinking how fucked these people seemed and how I had somehow been cheating the system this whole time. I’m stage 4 for crying out loud, why don’t I barf, lose weight, and stumble from treatment? Believe me, i’m thankful. Blessed. Something. Everytime a nurse asks me “who are you here to see, dear?” it warms my heart. I get it. I don’t LOOK sick and I’m greatful. But staring at the walking wounded this past afternoon, I felt glum that this might be my future. Maybe not this round, but someday I could be sporting the vertical bandana.

I often feel out of place in support groups and lectures, because I’m not recognizeable as a patient. I get the “Its great that they caught your’s so early.” comment a lot because of how I appear. Yeah, Stage 4, not so much the “early detection”. I’m not sure what exactly I want to change in the situation. Probably nothing. I just feel lost sometimes, one foot in the sick world, one foot in the land of the healthy. Its wonderful to walk in to a bank or a grocery store and not have the obvious signs of a cancer patient. I don’t endure the casual looks of pity or altered tones in voice that so many others encounter. But I feel equally anonymous at the hospital and cancer fundraisers. I don’t have the battle scars that my fellow patients bear. I guess I just don’t feel like part of either club. Just this snarky gal in limbo land with some retarded cells that better not get any ideas about conquering new territory.

So, I sit. I read my erudite magazines. I sip my over priced coffee. I hope that my path veers sharply from the folks I sit amongst. I wish my compatriots well and look forward to my ativan/benadryl induced nap that lies before me. When I get home, I will drink a room temperature cocktail and count it among my many blessings.

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