Since March 6, 2009, nearly five years now, save for nine months when I was taking an oral chemotherapy medication at home, every three weeks I have been infused with some sort of chemotherapy drug. In that time, I have certainly become familiar and fairly well-known to the various staff at The Infusion Center. What follows is the most recent exchange with the receptionist in Oncology, as best as I can recall it.
Receptionist: “Hello, Mr. Lourie. How are you”?
Me: “Lovely. Happy to be here.”
Receptionist: “That’s nice.”
Me: “Actually, I’m not happy to be here. I mean I’d rather not be here. But since I’m here, it’s better that I’m here than not here, as in unable to get here because I’m not here anymore.”
Receptionist: “I understand.”
Me: “Really? Because I’m not sure I understand. I know what I’m thinking, but…What I mean to say is that I don’t want to be coming here to the Infusion Center, because that means I’m being treated for cancer. But if I do have cancer, I guess I’m happy to be still alive, in order to be able to get here for treatment.”
Receptionist: “I understand.”
Me: “I think I’m confused. I don’t want to be coming here because I have cancer. I’d rather not be coming here at all. But since I have cancer, I suppose I’m glad I’m able to still get here. I think I’m going around in circles.”
Receptionist: “No, you’re fine. I understand completely.”
Me: “Really. ‘Cause I’m not sure I do. It seems like I’m talking to myself, repeating myself. I’m a writer and often I use double-entendres in my column, which seems sort of what I’m doing here. Although I’m not intending it. I was more realizing/thinking aloud as to why I was here, whether I wanted to be here and the reasons why I was fortunate – so to speak, to even still be here and/or how unfortunate I was to be here being treated for terminal lung cancer – as opposed to being healthy and not needing to be here. I feel as if I’m rambling here. Am I making any sense?”
Receptionist: “Not to worry. (Smiling, laughing.) I do understand exactly what you’re saying.”
Me: “I’m not sure I do. Maybe I should just stop talking and sit down and wait for Ron (my oncology nurse) to come and get me.”
Receptionist: “Ron’s running late. He’s stuck in traffic. He’ll be here soon.”
Me (to myself): Great (chagrined.) I suppose I should probably stop pacing then and just sit down and try to relax. I’m here. I’m checked in. Besides, I have to be ready for my blood pressure check. If my vitals (and/or lab results, appearance, etc.) are not normal, protocols will prevent any infusion today (which has happened to me twice; very disappointing, especially considering that you think your life depends on receiving the treatment that day). If the patient doesn’t pass muster, however, the oncology nurse has no choice: there will be, to invoke the “Soup Nazi” from “Seinfeld”: “No chemo for you.”
Fortunately, for this infusion, I have once again managed to “Pass the audition,” as John Lennon so famously joked at the end of the live roof-top version of The Beatles’ song “Get Back” at the end of the “Let It Be” album.
Life goes on though – for me, thank God!, despite my confusion. Thanks to the staff for continuing to take me in stride.