Circles in the Chemo Room

Apr 09

In the Chemo Room on Monday, I sat next to my mom.  I know, it sounds so weird that my mom and I hang out in the Chemo Room.  We both get Herceptin (the biological drug that targets breast cancer cells); she gets a three-week dose, and I get a one-week dose.  I love that my mom always schedules her appointment around my schedule; it’s kind of like going out for coffee or sitting and having a cup of tea.  She always has her calendar and a list of things she wants to talk to me about.  Yesterday I gave her my copy of Carry On, Warrior since I finished reading it already (loved it!).  We talked about birthday parties for the girls and our upcoming travel plans.

In the recliner my left side, a new-to-me patient sat down.  She was bald, as are about 50% of the people in the Chemo Room.  She was very friendly, and knew my mom from past weeks in the Chemo Room, so we chatted easily.  She had breast cancer five years ago when her daughters were ages 3 and 4.  A few months ago, her regular follow-up tests lead to a scan which revealed she had a metastases on her spine.  Now a Stage IV Survivor, she completed several months of chemo, and her post-chemo scans showed that the spine met has no activity (really good news).  She’ll be a regular in the Chemo Room for the rest of her (long, long, long, please God, LONG) life.  We shared the sentiment that cancer is becoming a “chronic illness” rather than a terminal illness for some people.  Medical technology is advancing all the time, and she/we are hopeful that Stage IV cancer will be a managed condition.  It was  a good conversation, and she radiated light and strength and peace.  I love meeting women with that kind of light–in or out of the Chemo Room.  She does not let her circumstances dictate her attitude.  I admire that greatly.

In the chair next to my mom, two down to my right, was another favorite friend of mine.  She’s battling her third round of colon cancer since first diagnosed thirteen years ago.  In her 80s and chatty and optimistic and encouraging, she makes me nostalgic to have a cup of tea with my own grandmother.  She has a great perspective that she’s in the Chemo Room to keep her quality of life strong, and she, too, is full of light and joy.  Brad lost his grandmother this week, and he is so thankful for the legacy she imprinted on him.  I told my chemo friend about GGma V, and how she rocked the dance floor at the weddings of her grandchildren.  I told her about my own grandmother: she is a regular blog commenter, and embraced email/computers in the 90s when she recognized it as an excellent way to stay in touch with family scattered about the globe.  She’s the only computer-savvy senior citizen I know, and I’m so happy that she pursues her online connections… it really shrinks the miles between us.

As I was getting unhooked (before my mom–I’m a faster dripper than her, ha ha), another friend came in and sat down on a wheelie stool so that she could talk to us.  She’s in her late thirties, and a mom of 3, aged eleven, nine and four.  She also has The Best Wig; everyone who meets her is astonished it’s not her real hair.  (Seriously, it is an amazing wig.)  She’s halfway through her breast cancer treatment, and she’s at the point where she is starting to consider surgery options, so she is asking everyone who has been-there-done-that.  The Chemo Room is a wealth of knowledge and oh-so-open about such topics.

As I left, I waved to all my people in the oncology office.  They are my people, and they make my weekly pilgrimage to the Chemo Room so rich.

And then I left the office, and emerged feeling grateful: resolved to Do Today Well.  I get so much more than medicine at the oncology office; it is healing for the soul, too.


  1. Lynda M O /

    So wonderful that you get enrichment from all the people you have met on this journey. I am encouraged by your comments about it being a manageable disease and not a death sentence anymore. I know and love too many people with cancer to be able to handle losing all of them. Manageable is great-a true, new way of considering it all. Thanks so much.

  2. Kim Rourke /

    “She does not let her circumstances dictate her attitude.” Thanks for the motto of the day and for reminding me what being on this planet is about….. PEOLPLE

  3. One of my favorite posts…you might wonder why…it’s pretty simple really, this post encompasses what life SHOULD be. It’s a good reminder for me to try to live life this way. Shouldn’t we all have circles of friends surrounding us no matter our circumstances? Sharing and walking this life TOGETHER! Embracing each moment for what it is. Finding joy in the journey.

    Jen, I read your blog all the time, and rarely post, instead I pray. Just wanted you to know I am not a “post-er”, but I’m a “pray-er”! 🙂 Love you, friend! Way to rock the chemo room, as usual!

  4. Peggy /

    Having been a volunteer in an infusion department for a long time, I can attest to the great friendships and uplifting conversations that take place in a cancer center. Women are notorious for striking up conversations with other women ~ any place, any time. If two women are left alone for longer than a minute…talking begins! That can be at the grocery store checkout line, hair salon (even with a headful of foils), or post office. Women will ask complete strangers for their opinions at a department store while trying on clothes. But for men, friendships are usually kept pretty simple ~ sports, job, cars, tools ~ unless they’re in a Chemo chair. There’s something about an IV drip that really gets men to talking…and about everything, INCLUDING emotions. It’s refreshing to see all the new friendships forming, even when the impetus is cancer. And it’s especially nice that you write about it.

  5. I love to hear the positiveness with which you view the chemo room! Such optimism abounds! I am loving Carry On Warrior, but I am cherishing it. Reading just a few “chapters” at a time, savoring each delicious morsel. Selfish, really, as I should be passing it along. Carry On, you warrior!

  6. motherhoodandmiscellany /

    I have been faithfully reading your blog since The Diagnosis, and have shared it with a dear friend with a very, very similar cancer to yours (she has done chemo, had her mastectomy, and is about halfway through her radiation). She gets a lot from reading your blog, and I feel like I can understand her journey a little better for having read about yours. I haven’t commented in a long time, but I just wanted to say today, “thank you” for writing what you write. You write beautifully an important stuff. You make me remember to cherish every day with my kids (3 girls, 4, 2, and 1) and I have tried to get my first mammogram because of hearing your story (couldn’t because of breastfeeding, but I will at first opportunity). Just wanted to tell you 🙂

  7. Pat Powell /

    Jen dear I had just done a big reply to this and I have lost it. I feel a little disturbed and find it hard to repeat what I have already said. I told you again of the huge settling in your dear Mum had with her coming to live in the States. I remember her early letters to us and her working finally – after feeling so alone over there – found a job and started on the course where that has led her. We came over to surprise her for her acknowledgement as a qualified nurse. We could not get there for the presentation – but we were at the house when she came home – so very proud parents of your Mom. I am equally proud of you and admire the strength you have and the way you are handling your life – the acceptance you have of people the openness you have with finding new friends – you give of your self to them -but in doing so you receive from them a combining strength knowing that others have the same problems helps one another to fight the same problem. My love to you dear girl Your G/Ma