Follow the Leader

“Come, follow me, we check in here…we follow these flowers in the carpeting back here to this room – what are those flowers called – the ones they have in spas? you stay here, and I’ll go change my top.”

I follow her lead.

Hm, so this is what a radiology-oncology department looks like – empty children’s play tables, bright, florescent lighting, and green, plastic plants.

After returning from a changing room, behind a closed door, she sat next to me.

“I brought my shot with me. I’m going to have them shoot me when I go in for radiation. I should’ve done my shot at 6 this morning, but time got away from me.” She set the plastic-wrapped syringe, full of blood thinning medicine, on the chair arm between us.

“Look at my eyelashes, look at my eyebrows – my hair is becoming so coarse.” Oh, so this is what happens when a body receives chemo/radiation.

I inspect her eyelashes. I had noticed them two nights before at her birthday party. They are long and curl on the ends.  She’s beautiful.

Her name was called, and she got up, leaving me in the waiting room, checking the weather forecast on my phone. It’s supposed to rain tonight – monsoon – I should probably bring the stuff in from the patio – rain or shine, just in case.

Ten minutes later, I’m startled by a technician standing in the doorway, calling my name.

Who me? Yes, me.

I followed the tech to a room down and across the hallway.

The room, full of large, metal equipment, must be the place where radiation treatments are given.

My friend, standing in the middle of the room, raising her top enough to expose her stomach,  introduces me to Wanda.

“Wanda is going to give me today’s shot, and I want you to watch her, so you can do it tomorrow.”

Wanda greets me, with her kind Southern accent, and gets busy.

Wanda instructs,

“Wipe with alcohol, keep two fingers width away from her bellybutton, and shoot the needle at an angle, not straight in. Don’t push the air out of the syringe before you begin. The air is there, so you don’t accidentally leak any of the medicine. If you can’t do it tomorrow, just come back to me with her shot. I’ll do it for her.”

Oh, yeah, she has to return to this same spot tomorrow for another round of radiation, and she has to have a shot of blood thinner every day, rain or shine.

She’s following her medical team’s lead, and I’m following her.

On our way home, and with her driving, she told me, “I had my hair done yesterday, and my hair stylist told me she has a friend who has breast cancer. The friend with breast cancer just lost all her hair.  I know that I’m going to lose my hair once chemo begins. I told my stylist that I hadn’t begun chemo, but I was beginning radiation. My stylist told me her friend with breast cancer had had radiation and described it with an analogy:”

“Radiation is like killing a roach.

You spray bug spray on a roach, over and over again, until it stops moving.

The roach dies, but the roach still remains.

It’s like that with a tumor.

The goal of radiation is to kill the tumor, but the tumor remains,

dead but still there.”

Isn’t it invaluable what we learn from others’ who are willing to share their expertise?

Rain or shine, we’re led to the answers to our questions, if we’re willing to follow others’ leads.


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