I drafted this post during my fourth chemo treatment on Friday, July 6.
Eight treatment recliners line the walls of the 16×28′ treatment room. Dark grape cabinets and wallpaper adorn the short walls. They are flanked by others covered in a subtle, tonal grey print.
Today I claimed the prime spot: a corner with ample space for a companion chair. Seth has nested comfortably into his seat, rarely complaining that it’s just a cloth-covered stacking chair. (I suppose anyone not in a treatment recliner feels fortunate enough.)
We’ve retreated to our electronic sanctuaries: movies for him and music for me. Sometimes we sit and talk quietly during my treatment. Other times we do things on our smartphones or silently make funny faces at each other.
Many patients like to nap or at least rest quietly while the drugs get pumped into them. I do my best to nap, although I’m easily stirred when I hear or sense a nurse checking on my IV drip. During my first 3 treatments the cast of characters was relatively stable: approximately 4 other patients. Most slept or rested quietly during their treatment.
Today, however, there are several newcomers. At least one is here for his first treatment, one had to reschedule from their normal day, and one is restarting treatment after a hiatus. All of them are fortunate enough to be accompanied by a friend or family member.
But one of these companions is breaching the unwritten treatment room code of etiquette. And truthfully, that’s my way of saying he is being inconsiderate. Although quite a friendly man, he hasn’t stopped talking in two hours. Talking very loudly… To anyone who will make eye contact… About subjects that might make some people uncomfortable.
Closing my eyes, I try to sleep. Through Seth’s spare headphones I can still hear conversations about gun control, Kevlar vests, and “the runs.” I glance around the room to see if anyone else is irritated by the inappropriate volume and vigor of the discussion. Two older patients stir but try to maintain a state of unconsciousness.
Receiving chemotherapy isn’t at the top of anyone’s list. It’s something you dread and want to be done with as soon as possible. The time in the chair brings you face-to-face with a harsh reality. The silver lining to this dark cloud is that you can try to balance it with some peaceful, quiet reflection. Rather, you should be able to do so.
Everyone in treatment is on a schedule. Because many people get treatment every three weeks, you end up seeing the same people each time. That means this loud, too friendly man might be at all of my future treatments! No more peaceful silence… No more quiet reflection!
I might have an out, though. Since I have a scheduling conflict in three weeks, my next treatment will be on a Monday. If the Monday group is relatively tame, I might be able to stay on that rotation. Yes, this could work. But if not, how do you address something like this? I would inform the nurses of the issue – surely they must realize he’s waking sleeping patients already – but would they say anything? Probably not. And then I would look like a troll.
No, I think the best solution here might be avoidance. Chemo sucks as it is. I don’t need another reason to dread it!