The sign over the door might have said, or ought to have said, Treatment; I think it actually said Rm107. In any case, it was the entrance to the rooms where cancer patients are treated. The sorts of things that passed through my mind as I followed my wife into the sanctum weren’t really about illness but about treatment. It’s what you might think about every time you enter a supermarket, a restaurant, a hotel, or a dentist’s office. How will I be treated? Are there certain things I need to know to get the best treatment? In my case, it would probably been helpful if I hadn’t suggested that I could sandpaper the nurse’s finger tips if it would help her sensitivity while she was probing for the right vein to insert the needle.
A lovely young woman brought us some snacks in the form of pretzels and peanut butter crackers. The treats came in a charming red sand bucket of the kind I remembered using on the beach when I was a child. The original kind was thin enameled metal that rusted, and the shovel, which was also metal, had the tendency to bend and break when you shoved it too deep into wet sand. My main memory was that my cousin like to use hers to dump sand on my slice of watermelon.
There was some juice which claimed to be made from strawberries, mangoes, and sweet potatoes. The label said 68% juice; the other 32% of ingredients weren’t mentioned. My wife said it tasted pretty good when she drank it during the second bag of chemicals dripping into her veins. I sat across from her and thought about a lot of things we should do together. We need to make another trip down to our favorite places in Australia, especially the cliffs along the Tasmanian coast. There’s a particularly favorite spot of ours on the Coromandel Peninsula on the east side of New Zealand where a beloved cheese shop carries local sheep’s milk cheese that is the best in the world. And of course there are dear friends of ours scattered all over the world.
There was one bit of humor that I could take away with me, however. It was the kind of line delivered on stage to an unsuspecting audience. “I sat there hour after hour and watched my wife undergoing her treatment and wished that I could switch places with her. I was thinking that she had a much more comfortable chair than I.”
So much for noble-sounding impulses.