Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Cancer Center

A few years ago, my mom had an adverse reaction to a new rheumatoid arthritis drug.

She was terribly tired and her blood levels were dropping every day. Doctors put her on what I considered to be a maintenance program of daily blood transfusions while they hospitalized her and ran test after test.

It was a scary time for all of us because we didn't have any answers. The word leukemia surfaced more than once among the possibilities. I don't think any of us wanted to think about it. We never talked about it.

Finally, my mom agreed to seek other medical opinions in Boston.

To our relief, doctors at her first appointment told us that it wasn't leukemia. She had a an infection that she had picked up because of her weakened immune system.

The treatment would be realtively simple, especially in comparison to some of the other options I think we were all mentally preparing ourselves for.

My mom would undergo several eight-hour IV treatments. These would be administered to her in the cancer center at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston where patients receive chemotherapy.

Because she couldn't drive herself to and from the treatments (and because we didn't want her to go through it alone), we took turns making the trip to the hospital.

It was eight hours I would never forget.

We walked into the cancer center and were shuffled into a large room. Curtains hung from the ceilings making thin separations between patients. Most of the curtains were closed. Some were open.

Thanks to the effects of a few of the drugs my mom was given, she slept for most of her treatment. This gave me time to wander around the center a little bit. The walls were lined with pictures and stories of cancer survivors -- and those who did not survive.

For most of the day, I sat next to my mom. The book I brought was open on my lap, but I don't think I read very much of it. The sights and sounds of the cancer center had my attention.

I remember the room being extremely quiet. I didn't hear a lot of conversations, aside from the chatter at the nurses station in the middle of the room. I think most of the patients were sleeping. Some were there alone. From time to time, I heard the sounds of people throwing up or groaning.

The patients came in every age, gender, shape and size. Cancer has no preferences, I guess.

There was a young couple next to me. I'd guess they were in their late 20's or early 30's. The woman was under a blanket, sleeping while she received her treatment. Her husband sat next to her holding her hand. He sat there for the whole eight hours. I could tell it was a routine this couple had done many times before.

I couldn't help but think of this experience as I ran my last three miles the other day. I don't know what happened to the other people in that room. Maybe some of them got better. Maybe some of them didn't.

I do know that my family made it out easy.

It's good to remind myself that I'm not just doing this run to complete a challenge, get in shape or meet new people. My running will make a difference.

Have you donated to my fundraising campaign for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society? If not, please consider doing so. You can donate online at Please pass this link to everyone you know. Every dollar helps me get a little closer to the Disney 13.1!


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  2. As I read your posting on Saturday evening I am forced to change what I had already decided upon for my entry. Today, I must say that is a great entry and very meaningful, showing the personal side of yourself. Reminding me we take advantage of the things around us and sometimes it's too late when we realize the end is near. Leukemia is a scary cancer, I know first hand for my sister-in-law fights everyday to keep the march of life going.


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