I don't think too many people have the opportunity to let their minds wander like I do these days. And I get the oddest instances in which to let it wander.
I've always been fascinated by people in general. Human Nature and such. Back when I was "normal" (for whatever that's worth) I'd sit on the train and watch people come on and off, and if they were in a group of people, I'd imagine backstories for all of them. Come up with little plot lines. Where they were coming from, or where they were going, what the relationship between them all is.
Having cancer doesn't change this little habit of mine. But it just makes it happen on a much more grand level. For instance, not many people get to walk the halls of their oncologists office or infusion center and ponder about all the people waiting in the exam rooms.
Sometimes I'll walk by on the way to the bathroom or back to my IV and see a couple sitting in the chairs, and I think, what kind of devastating news are you getting today. OR maybe good news, maybe a remission?
Because, unfortunately, given the simple nature of WHERE you are (cancer doctor) you know these people aren't there for the flu. It's not like you're at the podiatrist. You know each and every person stepping through that door has, in some way, had a brush with the big C.
I walked past an exam room one day and saw a middle aged black man sitting in a gown on the exam table. I saw a woman around my age sitting in the chair near the door. I thought as I passed by, Is this just a scare? Is he there to get test results? Has he already gone through a course of treatment and is just checking in? Is it a reoccurance? What form did it take? Is it liver? Lung? Bone? Prostate?
I walked past the larger infusion room to glance at the handful of patients in there receiving their treatments. I noticed they were mostly elderly. I thought, what do they think of me when I walk past? I'm young, I look even younger than I really am. I look very healthy. No one would ever peg me for a cancer patient (ahem...excuse me...cancer survivor. yyessssssss). I walk past them with my ipod in hand, big baggy hoodie and huge pants (mostly huge b/c I've lost alot of weight, but it appears to the outside world to be my attempt at the 'urban' look. or the 'hip hop' look. and yes, those are both said with "air quotes" b/c this is how I'm envisioning these older people speaking. Hey. Gimmie a break, I have to spend alot of time there)
I wonder if they feel sorry for me. Or pity me. Or do I give them some hope? Or do they not even see me. Are they just oblivious to life around them?
After doing this at each treatment I suddenly realized what this place felt like to me. The entire oncology unit. The waiting rooms to the exam rooms to the infusion rooms. It's Limbo. We're all in Limbo.
We've all put our lives on hold. We're all on pause while we take on the job of "getting well". Sure, most of the time people are encouraged to live their lives as normally as possible while on treatment. If you can, you're encouraged to work, enjoy whatever leisure activities you did before, socialize, celebrate, eat, drink, and be merry (pffff). And many people do just that. Hell, I like to think I do that. But ultimately, it always comes down to "three more chemo treatments left....two more chemo treatments left...." and scheduling around ct scans and doctor appointments. Yes in between I go to concerts, or hang out with friends, see movies, go out to eat, complain about going to work, wrestle with my dog. But I'm still just waiting. Waiting for the day I am not a regular at Dr. Kaplan's.
Waiting Waiting Waiting
Waiting for the next test results to come back. Waiting for WBC counts to go up. Waiting for side effects to wear off. Waiting for anxiety to go away. Waiting for the all clear. Waiting for the green light that says you can go back to your real life. And even then, you don't. You never just forget about that little stint you did back in the day for cancer.
It's always with you, but at the moment you're in the most literal form of Limbo I can think of.