We are in the radiation waiting room. It is intolerably cold and bleak outside, uncomfortably hot and dry inside. There are just a couple of people here wall with sad looks on their faces, maybe not so much sad as resigned: resigned to this barbaric treatment. I swear I can smell an odor of cooking flesh. They have little room deodorizers all around, wonder if it’s to mask that smell.
Patients come and go with various head coverings: wigs, bandanas, chef’s caps—whatever it takes to cover the embarrassment of having lost their hair. Some appear to be in pain, moving slowly, getting assistance with their jackets. There is a brown teddy bear wearing a green medical mask in view; I suppose he is here for the kids.
Doug is close to the end of his visits here.
He has been sleeping in a chair the last couple of days for fear he might entangle himself in the tube he has to wear for three days; it’s pumping the chemicals into him. I struggle to sleep in an empty bed thinking: “Please, I don’t want this to be practice for living alone.” About to finally drift off, a cold sweat attacks and I’m awake for another hour, or two, or three…it’s a dismal fog at night.
I know there is snow falling outside. I can see headlights coming in through the living room curtains where Doug is sleeping, flat on his back, not moving. I hope the lights don’t wake him.
Morning finally comes. Doug awakens me, “Do you want to get up? It’s 7 o’clock.”
Of course, I want to get up. This is the nearly the end of all his treatments so I took the week off work as I thought if there were a time he would need me to be around, it would be this last week. So, I accompany him, warning about touching doorknobs and cautioning him to use his hand sanitizer (probably more of a pest than a help.)
There are four old men in here now. Three cancer patients and me. Doug is meeting with the doctor. He calls it “doctor and nurse day”. I want to leave here so badly that my shoulders are scrunched up in fear. Doug, having been doing this for at least a month, is cool and calm despite the intolerable heat of this place.