TALES FROM THE DRESSING ROOM


I’m more than halfway through my treatments and let’s just say my skin is in full revolt. Most nights, my skin is crawling and there isn’t much I can do to soothe it. Radiation doesn’t mix with most salves. I keep telling myself this is just a season, but it’s been a long one. Three months in and I can’t wait to wear a bra again, or to wear my girly clothes, or even to have time to go to the dentist.  Even after my treatments are over, I will still have another waiting period of healing, much like you have to wait to eat your food for a few minutes after microwaving it because it’s technically still heating, but at least I’ll be almost finished cooking.

People rotate in and out of radiation treatment. I meet someone, I make a connection, and then Monday happens and they are no longer in treatment. I may never know what happens to them, I just have to trust that they return to their lives and live them to the full.

Take Hazel for example (not her real name). Hazel is a lady that I shared the waiting/dressing room with for about three weeks. She is older, somewhere in her 60’s, and she has returned to work. She’s been through chemo or hell, however you choose to package it.  Hazel didn’t talk much the first week and didn’t smile much at all. Someone with that disposition might as well hang a sign around their neck that says, “I dare you.”  I love those kinds of dares.

One day the wait was a little long, so I took her dare and complimented the shiny hat that covered the bit of hair that had grown back from her stint with chemo. The tip of the iceberg crashed to the floor.

I’m amazed at how quickly after a diagnosis patients are whisked through chemo and radiation, and Hazel was no different. She told the doctor she had a family vacation she wanted to take before she started treatment and delayed chemo for two weeks.  The vacation was with family overseas and she was determined to take it because it might be her last vacation for a while, or in her opinion, ever.

I told her that we should take all the opportunities we can to live life to the fullest because we are survivors.  Her countenance clouded, then she said, “everyone keeps telling me I’m a survivor. I’m sitting in here waiting for radiation… and… I don’t feel like a survivor.”

My Sassy filter did not deploy, but since I’ve determined from watching all 7 Harry Potter movies Saturday and Sunday that my brain has wrackspurts (aka radiation brain), I was not surprised that I said, “Hazel, you’re a survivor until they pull the sheet over your head.”

Since we were not alone, I waited for a gasp, chastisement, or even disgust. Instead, the person just within earshot was amused and Hazel’s eyes ere wide. Then, for the first time since I’d been trying to get to know anything about Hazel, she started to laugh, a deep, heartfelt laugh.

“I’m going to tell my kids that one.”

She smiled Friday when I saw her, and I got her to laugh again by telling her, as she feverishly worked on a crossword puzzle, that I had been to crossword rehab (I’m not proud of it!) and only recently had been released to play Scrabble again. She kept giggling and it was music to my ears.

This week, her treatments were over, and I haven’t seen her since. I hope she is on her way to good health, that she gets to fill towers of crossword puzzles, take more trips and laugh.

After all, we’re all survivors until they pull the sheet over our heads, and even then, some of us know what’s hidden behind the veil.

Until then, I need to get back to my Scrabble game.