I have a friend here in Portland who is in his mid-60s. He’s going through a very similar cancer course to mine, albeit significantly more severe, as his primary cancer had already metastasized when first detected. Yesterday I had planned to visit him at his house, mostly to listen, and also to talk about strategies for surviving chemo with heart and mind and body intact.
Yesterday, he was admitted to the oncology ward of his treating hospital for severe complications from chemotherapy. So I visited him there instead.
Without too much detail, he’s lost about thirty pounds in the past eight or ten weeks. He looked dreadful. After two months of chemotherapy, he was worse off than I was at the end of a six-month course. I sat with him for about an hour and half while his family ran errands, and mostly we talked. Slowly, on his part, and listening on my part.
The tiny, hospital smelling room; the infusion pumps gently clicking; the beeping of alarms in the hallway; even the look of the bed — this is his journey, not mine. But I’ve been on a very similar journey, and have even odds of getting my ticket punched for the chemo trail again in the near future. Being there put me in a very odd, fragile mental and emotional space.
Did I look like this? I don’t think so, but I never saw myself from the outside. Did I have the cognitive disconnects he was going through? Absolutely.
He’ll probably be ok, my friend. The complications have been stabilized, they’ve identified the reason for the weight loss and are remediating that. Me, I walked out of there weeping for him, for me, for all the lost years and lives that cancer steals from the living and the dead.