“I’ll be there for you when the rain starts to pour.” – The Rembrandts
Since we’ve lived here, there have been a couple of conversations between Angie and me about whether or not we should move away from Tennessee. Maybe we were thinking about moving to her hometown in Massachusetts, where she can be closer to her only sister. Maybe we were talking about moving back to my home of North Carolina where we could be closer to my only brother, Pat, and his wife and two boys. We’ve obviously never followed through, and we probably won’t since we settled down this year. I feel stressed just writing about the idea of packing all our stuff. But, it also makes me realize how much I would miss our friends (and all the dope concerts).
Our first day of chemotherapy began with a 5AM alarm. I have to give myself time to shave and shower before I wake Angie at 6AM. My first attempt to wake her was countered with a, “Give me ten more minutes.” I obliged. It’s not like they’re going to start the chemo without her. What are a few minutes of tardiness? Once she makes it to the bathtub, I head out to the living room to make sure we’ve got everything we need for our long day. Headphones, blanket, nausea candy, lip balm, and so on. Our dogs seemed a little baffled to see Angie up that early. While she was in the bath, it sounded like Angie was blasting the Insecure Soundtrack.
Our car ride was very calm. The Wild Reeds came on over the radio. Angie proposed that we buy the Carolina Panthers as a Christmas present to ourselves. There’s that humor I love. Once I parked the car at the hospital, I immediately took note of which level we were on because I’m trying to break a terrible habit of getting lost in parking garages. As we walked away from the car, I could sense tension coming over Angie. Maybe it was her sudden realization that today was the beginning of a battle. Maybe she realized that on the other side of those doors awaited her battle ground. I started growing tense as well, but unlike Angie, I knew something was about to ease the tension.
It wasn’t a big surprise like the ones where people jump out from behind couches, turn on the lights and yell “surprise” when trying the give someone a 40th birthday party. It was better than that. Several coworkers, friends and family were inside waiting to show Angie the amount of support she can expect during her treatment. She didn’t expect it, but then again, maybe she did. With folks like this in your life, how could you not know that they’ll be there for you? After Angie was able to distribute about thirty hugs to everyone, we all gathered around for a prayer before she headed up to begin chemo.
It would be impossible for me to estimate how much that collective show of support improved the day. It confirmed what we already believed. It is also the cancer insight I have to offer today: Surround yourself with people that care for you. They’ll be there when you need them.
Inserting the needle into Angie’s port proved to be more painful than we thought it would be. It took two nurses to get it in correctly. Angie described the pain as “being stabbed.” Dr. Rogers finds it amusing that patients keep choosing to use that word. While this “attack” was happening, I could hear Christmas music playing from the hallway speakers every time a nurse or doctor opened the door to the “stabbin’ cabin”. It was surreal watching my wife getting a needle stuck in her while Burl Ives tries to convince me how rough Rudolf had it. Angie also used this experience as a chance to share her own brand of self-defense with the staff.
“If someone came at me with a knife, it wouldn’t be a matter of fight or flight. I would just get stabbed and fall down. “
Angie spent the majority of the session asleep in her chair, with headphones on and her feet propped up on my lap. We were greeted in the “chemo room” by a gentleman named Carl. He could tell this was our first time. Carl is currently fighting his second bout of cancer, so he offered several points of advice for Angie, like the magic of ginger. “It can be ginger root, ginger candy, ginger ale, or ginger snaps,” he told us.
“I love ginger!” Angie was a little too excited to announce this fact.
“Well, you’re going to be fine, then,” Carl concluded.
Right on, Carl. Right on.
Today’s customized playlist: