The chamber therapy, along with the pleasure of watching “Grey’s Anatomy” during the session, gives me ample time for deep, clear-headed thinking. I am surrounded each day by competent professionals who soothe and lessen my anxiety every moment I am in their care.
My husband, Kent, accompanies me each day to and from the hospital. His gentle manner and his loving words are the most effective of all medications I have been given.
My sister, Lisa, takes care of our beloved Barney throughout the week. She also offers encouragement. When I completed 30 out of 60 treatments, just last week, she sent me a stunning bouquet of flowers with a stuffed teddy bear I have named Sarah.
My dear friends have stopped by to visit me with surprises tucked under their arms, hugs, and kind eyes that do not flinch as they see me using a walker or a cane. Our loving friends, Johnny and Laurie, care for our German Shepherd, Morgan, during the week as well as bestowing us with treats and love. My sister-in-law, Marcy and her husband (Kent’s older brother, Dana) visit us often with treats and a basket filled with goodies. Kent’s twin brother and older sister call to make sure all is well, and when Kent’s son, Jay, calls to see how I am faring, he calls me Rita Hayworth, which makes me shake my head and laugh. My other friends, including Heather and Deb, struggle with their own challenges, yet they are forever asking if I need anything, as they cheer me toward that final 60th treatment. Because of a knee that desperately needs replacement, I lean a bit to the right.
My deep thoughts take me down many roads, my friends. I go over my successes, my failures, my lost loved ones, my triumphs, my defeats, my loves, financial mistakes, my health, my career, my writing, and many other aspects of my life.
I feel time goes too fast. How did I get to be 66 years old so quickly? What did I miss? Will I ever walk again without a cane? Will my knee replacement straighten my torso? Will the organs damaged by chemotherapy and radiation heal with the application of 100 percent oxygen?
One morning, before being called into the chamber, I met a gentleman in the waiting room. He was talking with another patient about his career before retirement. On his lap, he held a well-worn Thermos and a very outdated black lunchbox with a broken latch, held together by a thick elastic band. He explained that he brought his lunch, just in case his wife was a bit late picking him up. He had been a construction worker in Connecticut for most of his life, and he and his wife decided it was time to retire and move back to Maine. He loved living in Connecticut and spoke of his adventures in a melodious manner, his light blue eyes shining and dancing above his mask. His charm was fueled by his obvious joy from sharing his anecdotes with us.
I sat there mesmerized, clad in my blue, pure cotton johnny and light lemon-colored mask. I could not help but wonder just what sort of ailment he was being treated for, though it really did not matter. You see, he was not defined by his illness or his misfortune. He was on a much higher plane; one that thrived on the desire to grab onto life and not be defeated by those dips in the road and unchosen detours.
The gentleman was called upon before I left the waiting area. He hoisted himself up on the arms of his chair, picked up his Thermos and lunchbox and slowly shuffled out of the room, his torso bent forward and his legs slightly twisted. I noticed the edge of a white bandage between the cuff of his pant leg and his sneaker, and I knew he was more than likely being treated for a wound that needed help healing, just like me.
We all need healing of some sort — be it a broken heart or a shattered ankle. Some of our wounds show, while some stay hidden deep inside. I will forever cherish the memory of the gentleman in the waiting area. And it is his tales and his expressive eyes that I will remember always.
Please be kind to each other and take care of each other, my friends. I will return next week with yet another Northern Yarn. Only 26 treatments to go. Much love.
Belinda Hersey lives in Caribou with her husband, Kent, and their two dogs, Barney and Morgan. You may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.