Tonight I went with my three boys to Lake Alice on the UF campus. Lake Alice is known for alligators and there are warning signs that surround the lake. So we don’t get too close to the water and we watch from a distance to see alligators of all sorts and sizes. Tonight we saw one that was about 6 feet in length. But it wasn’t in the water. It was crossing the street. The alligator had crawled out of Lake Alice, over the curb and stopped to rest right in the middle of the street. Traffic was blocked in both directions and cars honked to get the gator’s attention. The honks worked. The alligator turned and headed back into the water. What a sight.
My close proximity to an alligator may have been the closest I came to danger today because so far, I have survived my first infusion of Herceptin without incident. I spent the afternoon in the infusion center with my mom and for a time, with Jordan and Tracy too. While John, Joey and Danny played at home, I sat in a private room as this new drug dripped for 2.5 hours through my port and into my bloodstream. I did not have an immediate allergic reaction, which has been a recent worry, and right now I feel no different than I have felt for the past few months.
I do feel something different, actually but it’s not an adverse reaction to cancer-fighting drugs. It’s a connection, a bond, a friendship formed in a short amount of time because of a shared experience.
My mom, Jordan and I visited with two women while we waited for my turn in the infusion center. One was a mom. One was her daughter. It was not clear at the time who would be the recipient of treatment and these women later shared that they wondered which of us would also receive treatment, me or my mom. So without sharing any personal details, we visited. They admired Jordan. And we talked, not about cancer but about life in general. We went into the infusion center at different times and reconnected at the end of day when I departed my private room and the mother of this pair was still receiving her treatment. They asked about my situation and they shared their story. We have different cancers and treatments and paths but we share a similar medical journey: diagnosis, chemo, radiation, the search for compassionate doctors, worry, hope, transition, strength, and the miracle of the mother-daughter relationship. Our brief visit was powerful and emotional and touching. We all wiped tears from our eyes as we parted. And I am still thinking about them, the mother who lives out of town and is staying in the Hope Lodge near Shands Hospital, where she lives temporarily so she can receive treatment each day. And her daughter, who has taken a leave from work to accompany her mom on this unexpected adventure. I will always remember them, just like I won’t forget the man who sang to me during my first chemo regimen or the older couple I saw on occasion during this same time. They had been battling cancer for years, with no clear end in sight. These faces are etched in my mind, daily reminders of courage and bravery and compassion. These people inspire me, motivate me, help me heal. I am proud to have known them, even if for fleeting moments. They may never know how they have touched me. But I know.