I have had three entirely different cancers and three different radiation treatments all within four and a half years. I had to count that twice on my fingers to actually believe it.
My first set of radiation treatments was for breast cancer. It was this set of treatments that came back to haunt me this winter. But that is not my focus now. My treatments were at Kaseman’s MD Anderson. I went every day for three weeks at double dose instead of the usual six weeks. I had been reassured that the results were the same. I had to drive across town. It was like a field trip. I knew that once I got there, I could have a good cup of coffee. They had a Keurig coffee machine. It was a carrot for me, and it worked.
I would sign in. Change into a gown. Lock up my wallet. Then I would sit with other patients to wait my turn. This is the part that sticks with me. It was in this room that I listened to the stories of other patients. Someone told me that the only time anyone talked was when I was there. I am glad that they did talk with me.
My memory is about a willowy, woman in her forties, brown hair, a few freckles across her pale face. She had been a teacher. She had metastatic cancer and had been through a lot. Currently, she was being radiated for cancer in her leg. She said her friends told her that she should travel while she had time. She said she just wanted to stay home and see the people she knew. Then she made a statement. Something she had been considering. She sat there and said this is it. “No more. I’ve had enough.” She was done with any new treatment. She surprised me. She was young. Of course, she was right. She had taken all the treatments they had given her, but she was tired. No more energy. She was done.
When I think of cancer’s power, I think of her. She had done her best. She was exhausted and could do no more. It really wasn’t about fighting or winning. It was about staying alive. It was about staying alive until there was nothing left. Like she said, she was done. Cancer’s a tough one.