After 7 weekly visits to the infusion room, head buried in my kindle or facebooking on my iPhone, I've finally made some chemo buddies.
Jeanette has breast cancer too, and her husband, unlike mine, comes along to her infusions for support. We've struck up one of those friendships that happen only because of a shared experience. We would have certainly missed each other otherwise.
It began one boring Wednesday as I checked the other patients in the room to see who might be interesting. A couple nearby were flipping through an old Better Homes and Gardens, laughing at a photo. Burt pointed out piles of pillows on a bed that looked like theirs. I saw a chance to butt-in, and we got to riffing about pillows, beds, and access to naps.
Naps: Something all chemo patients can discuss passionately and at length.
Apparently, their husbands can too.
Jeannette is way ahead of me in her treatment. She's finished with chemo and is almost done with herceptin. According to her husband, she no longer needs her sassy black wig, but she says she doesn't feel comfortable with short hair, so on it stays. A lot of us don't bother with wigs in the infusion room - after all, we're all in the same boat. But, Jeannette is one of those women who likes to keep her appearances up, from head to toe. I'm the same way, but now mostly from neck to toe.
Wigs are uncomfortable.
She also just began radiation and like everybody, mentions how time-consuming it is. (Radiation requires a daily appointment.) Burt sees it differently. Like my youngest son, Burt enjoys puzzles and there's a jigsaw puzzle in the radiation oncology waiting room. He's worried he won't finish it before Jeannette is done.
I think he should just go finish it without her.
But, I doubt he will, they seem very close. They even make pies together. Burt makes the crust because Jeannette sucks at it, and she does the filling. Last week they made lemon meringue but the whites wouldn't set up.
Burt is very solicitous of everybody in the infusion room - even the whiners. (My word, not his). There are often snacks sitting around in case people get hungry - stuff like oranges and peanut butter-filled pretzels and cookies. Burt, who likes to eat, gets up and offers them around, mostly, I think, so he can feel comfortable eating them on his own. He even peeled an orange for me while I was having an IV put in and my blood drawn and couldn't use my hand.
That's a gentleman.
They like me to sit next to them each week, and it makes me feel like the cool kid in the school cafeteria. Their jokes and positive attitude make them popular among the nursing staff too. Cancer can be a frightening experience and sadly, we see a lot of people in the infusion room who don't handle it with equanimity. (The aforementioned whiners - again, my words only.) I'm sure nobody blames them for their fears and needs, including me, but when you are stuck there for five hours, it's nice to find others who can take it in stride without begging for ativan every 15 minutes, discussing every ache and pain, or complaining about trivialities such as the IV needle and having to go to the bathroom.
I enjoy people who don't over-dramatize their illness.
I imagine Jeannette and Burt feel the same way about me, although naturally, we never discuss it. We just create our own fun little sanctuary between the IV poles, sharing cookies and jokes.
It is amazing to me that people of that age can have so much energy, be so modern, and have such a loving relationship. Gives me lots of hopes for the future. I find them inspiring.
Jeannette and Burt are almost 90.