I spent a lot of time in the infusion center today. Four hours to be exact. Which is a long time for a 90-minute infusion. There is always some delay and often I wait up to an hour before Herceptin begins to travel through my veins. But today was slow. Maybe there was a back-up because of the Thanksgiving holiday. Or maybe there are a slew of new chemo patients this time of year. Or maybe this is the usual business of chemo and I’ve been lucky to get in and out so quickly in the past. Regardless, I still felt lucky today — despite the long afternoon spent in the waiting room and then in pink chair #7. I felt lucky to have those four hours. Lucky to have received the gift that still causes me my most emotional moments — the kindness of those who surround me.
Nicole is a pediatrician at Shands Hospital. She is a new friend and already a good friend. Knowing I had my treatment today, she walked across the hospital campus to the infusion center and she sat with me — for all four hours. We talked about cancer and medicine and our jobs and our husbands. We talked about parenthood (Nicole is a soon-to-be mom) and baby names and our spunky grandmothers and their kind, peaceful ways. We talked about faith and religion and so much more. It was a calm afternoon for me, in the midst of a room that was hectic with activity. Surrounded by the continuous motion of nurses and patients and visitors, the hum of a dozen or more separate conversations, and the rolling of IV poles with their near-constant beeping, I felt focused and relaxed with Nicole seated across from me. And that’s the gift — to be distracted from the magnitude of the day by a friend who sits and talks and is just simply there.
I talked with my Ohio friend, Amy, today. She just completed her third chemo treatment, and she has three more to go. She is discouraged and while half-way there, she can’t visualize getting to the end. But even in her despair, she talked about how amazed she is by what others are doing for her — caring for her kids, cleaning her house, supporting her. This kindness comes at a cost — the cost of cancer — but it is refreshing and invigorating. It helps us pass the time. It helps us appreciate the time. It helps all the time.
Time will heal our wounds. The pain will fade. The struggles will be memories. But I think the friendship and the love and the support will live on. These gifts are the stuff that get us through the hard times and the stuff that keep us going.
We are the lucky ones, really. Lucky we have the chance to witness the true wonder of good people. Lucky to have friends like Nicole.