It became too sunny in the foyer at RVH so I’ve moved into the blood work waiting room of the chemo lounge. Even the name sounds more appealing. I wonder why we have adopted such names as foyer, suite, lounge? In any case… I digress.
Here – it’s a whole new ball game. There is optimism in the air. There is a spring in peoples’ steps. There is an atmosphere of intimacy and cooperation. Fewer people bustle about. It seems there is a drone in the air here that speaks, “Wait. Just wait.” And we do. There is a book that is left out on the chair beside me. “Bad Heir Day”, by Wendy Holden. I wonder if this is some kind of sick joke. I actually find it funny, since I have no hair. Guess my bad hair (or heir) days are over for now.
Cancer knows no age. It knows no gender. It knows no colour or race. It is the most non-discriminatory entity I’ve encountered. There are people of all shapes and sizes here.
Names are called. People respond. No one hurries. No one panics.
Plaques on the walls read familiar names to me: Stan Sinton, Ray and Lorraine Gariepy, the Melchoirs, and Ward Charlebois. People I know. People I love or have loved. People who continue to resonate memories, ground me, inspire me.
The Sintons. I had a dream about Barb last night. I don’t know why. I saw her in a crowd of people- she caught my glance and walked over to give me a great big hug. “Stacey Duff,” she announced. (She knew me as a youngster and continues to call me by my maiden name) I don’t remember what happened in the dream, but I do remember how happy we were to see each other. I must call her again. I often think of her and how she is doing. Here is a brave woman. She lost both her child and her husband to cancer – and she carries on. It is those who are left behind who have to carry the cross of the loss. It’s not easy. Thelma Cockburn taught me, “the degree to which you have loved is the degree to which you grieve”. Indeed. That is true. Barb’s grief is palpable. But she does not give up. She is still focused on living, giving, and loving. I admire her.
The Gariepys. Now there is an amazing family. I loved Mr. and Mrs. Gariepy. They were extraordinary. They LOVED deeply. They were passionate about everyone they met and everything they did. The were courageous people who forged a path in life which was fraught with challenges. Yet, they lived fully and wholly. I don’t remember much of what we did together, but I do remember how they always made me feel so loved and accepted. When I was with them I felt valued. I admire them.
The Melchiors. Now there is a couple! I grew up with them and their children Anna Maria and Dino. Strong family. Again, not many memories of the things we did – but I do remember how deeply they lived their lives and loved. I loved being with them. I was accepted, I was rejoiced. I felt special. A couple that came to Canada with nothing, they carved a strong foothold in Barrie. Family ALWAYS came first. I see this in Dino’s photos and comments about his daughter. Clearly, their family values spilled over into many, many of us. Courage. Strength. Visionary. I admire them, too.
Tomorrow, once again, I will ring Ward’s bell. It is a reminder to me of courage. I wasn’t sure if I would ring it – because I will most likely be back here again in the future. But each act of courage must be celebrated. I don’t have the courage that Barb Sinton has, nor the passion of the Gariepys. Neither do I have the strength of the Melchiors. But I do have my own courage – and that has been given to me by my family, my friends, and my mentors and teachers in my life including Thelma.
Sitting here, I am reminded that I am always surrounded by the love of these families. They don’t even know it. They are here with me in my thoughts – and I feel loved. I feel cared for. I am valued.
Yes, there is a different perspective that one can take sitting here in the chemo blood lab. It is quiet. It lends itself to reflection and appreciation. It is here where I feel most comfortable, cared for.
My chemo volunteer walks by once more. She is everywhere. I have faith that I WILL see her tomorrow and eat her cheese and crackers. Hey, if I’m lucky, the Cafe Royale will be serving that Thai soup again too. I’m thinking food. That must be a good thing. I think my attitude has changed. Have these families wrapped their arms around me – once again? Perspective is all.
I’m so happy to be surrounded by the memories of those families with whom I grew up and who have given so much to me. I am so very grateful for their charity to this hospital. They continue to make a difference – even now.
To these families, I offer my most heart-felt thanks.
Tomorrow – I will ring the bell to signify “the end” of chemo, but I will also ring it to signify “appreciation”. Thanks for being her.