I’ve seen them down the hall, behind closed doors; the chairs where people in various stages of concern are hooked up to tubes as drops of life-saving medicine drip steadily, hopefully, into their arms.
These are the chemo chairs at Roper St. Francis Cancer Center, where cancer patients receive regular infusions, “cocktails” they call them or personalized concoctions designed to attack their specific cancer.
Cancer treatment has come a long way in just a decade or so. There was a time when everybody got the same shotgun blast of chemicals designed to kill the fast-growing cancer cells. Unfortunately, that old one-size-fits-all cure devastated most people. That’s why I flinched every time I saw the chairs. I dreaded the day when my prostate cancer led me down that hall, behind those closed doors and to those chairs. Now it has, but not for chemo.
My treatment is different. I’m receiving Provenge, a clinical trial that takes my blood cells, turns them into a vaccine, then puts them back in my body to fight the cancer. But the process is the same; you still have to sit in the chairs.
I was nervous the first time I sat in one of the soft, reclining chairs. And surprised by the company I encountered.
Rather than desperate people clinging to life’s last hope, I found the most upbeat group of folks I’ve ever met. Not at all what I expected.
As the nurses hook me up, I chat with other patients, comparing cancer treatments the way we might talk about the weather, or what’s on sale at Costco. It’s a normal world for an abnormal situation.
Despite the IVs and tubes running in and out of their bodies, people chat, read or watch movies like this is the best part of their day. And for some, it is. It’s a precious few hours when you can commune with people who understand your plight, get some things done on your to-do list or simply relax.
I’ve changed my mind about the chairs. As much as I feared them, I now look forward to the days when I can visit with my new-found friends. Oh, and get some cancer treatment at the same time.
By: Ken Burger, former Post and Courier sports columnist and local author. Reach Ken at email@example.com.
Editor’s note: Ken Burger is writing a series of blog posts about his current Provenge treatment for prostate cancer. This is the third in the series. Missed the first post? Read Milestone Moments now.