The brave smile

Jan 21

If I had to pick one unifying characteristic that would describe new patients in the Chemo Room, it would have to be the brave smile.

There are other telltale signs: multiple family members present, deer-in-headlights glaze in their eyes, a full head of hair, and an aura of disbelief.  But it is the brave smile that the newbies all have in common.  The first session in the Chemo Room is a rite of passage as a chemo patient.  It means that you have already passed through The Suspicion, The Diagnosis, The Logistics, The Testing, and The Planning.  There is a sense of, “Finally, we made it,” upon entrance to the Chemo Room.

We get to fight.

We get to kill cancer.

We get to live.

I counter their brave smile with my confident one.  “I did this,” I say gesturing to the drugs, the IV pole, the warm blankets.  “You can do it too.”

And then, inevitably, the brave smile morphs into genuine laughter, and we share names, and stories, and ourselves.  I meet people in all walks of life, who are not living a life interrupted by cancer.  They are living their life with cancer.  They are not mutually exclusive; they are inseparable.

I think that if every person started their week by spending an hour in a recliner next to a stranger who is receiving chemotherapy treatments, the world would be a kinder place.  I know it has made me a better person.  Every Monday Herceptin drips into my veins and goodness seeps into my soul; I hope I Do Today Well and pay it forward.

I am so grateful for this life and for my many blessings.

Blessings to you this week, too.


  1. Sharon /

    I just want you to know what an inspiration you have been over the course of the last year. I haven’t faced cancer, but if I do, I will draw upon your stories of strength and faith and good humor. Thank you. And I wish you all good things!

  2. Sharon Hajek /

    Blessings to you, dear one. You are both blessed and blest for that is how you see all life, and yours in particular.

  3. For over 3 years I have been, what I lovening like to call myself, a “flight attendant” in the infusion department of Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. You nailed all of the characteristics of a “newbie”. On rare occasion, someone would be scared to death, on the verge of tears. It was my job to help make them feel comfortable and I found humor to be the best way to achieve this. I often take their hand, offer a few comforting comments and then say, “I’ll just bet you’ll like this SO much, you’re going to come back again for another go at it in a few weeks.” That always works and causes huge smiles and outright guffaws! Fighting cancer is serious business that is often best tolerated with a healthy dose of laughter.

    If I can help just one patient get through this ordeal feeling better about spending their day in a huge green recliner thethered to an IV pole, then I “did today well” 🙂

  4. You were there for me Jen and It made all the difference in my chemo experience. I looked forward to my treatments because it meant I could visit with you and the others in our “knitting circle”.
    Yesterday I went to visit a friend of a friend, who is loosing her hair after round two. Although we were complete strangers, I felt an immediate connection because of our shared “bump in the road”.
    We talked effortlessly, filling in answers and me reassuring her that she can do it. She was most interested in my hair, I taught her how to tie her scarves, at times our eyes filled with tears, but for the most part we counted our blessings. It felt like a good way to spend my day yesterday, down here in the sunny south. Making connections through cancer, all part of God’s plan.

  5. Genora /

    May God bless and keep you, today and always!!

  6. Marsha Vonderwish /

    Well said! Thank you for sharing your sweet self with all of us.