My Timing Was a Little Off

A lot has changed at the clinic I go to since my cancer gig began a little over a year ago. At that time the cancer area was located on the fifth floor along with general surgery, plastic surgery and urology. Generally whenever I arrived for an appointment, there was a lengthy line and a waiting room filled with people of various sizes, ages and stages of whatever. A new cancer wing was under construction during my diagnosis and chemotherapy months, only opening up this past February. All I got to do was look at it from that bird’s eye view from the fifth floor. 

At my most recent oncology appointment, my husband remarked, “Gee, I guess your timing was a little off.”

“Yes,” I said, “too bad we’re not doing chemo this summer.”

Of course, we were both being sarcastic.

When I was undergoing chemotherapy last summer and fall, the ‘chemo rooms’ were a bit crowded at times. No, actually they were really crowded all of the time. The recliners were lined up side by side so close to each other if you didn’t know better, you might have thought you were sitting in a movie theater about to watch the summer’s latest flick. Come to think of it, the nurses did come around offering ‘refreshments’ and often did dim the lights. Bizarre.

I’m not anti-social or anything, but I didn’t really like the ‘buddy system’ during chemo. I didn’t want to hear everyone’s cancer story or listen in on everyone else’s conversations. But I often did. I didn’t want to hear the person sleeping next to me snoring or try to tune out the sound of the annoying TV show they were watching. But I often did. I didn’t want to hear the chemo nurse go through her ‘drill’ every time explaining whichever drug she was administering that day and all the nasty side effects the poor unsuspecting soul sitting in the recliner could expect. But I did.

Privacy, there was very little none of that.

When I was being infused, I was on a mission and that mission was to get in and out of there as quickly as possible. All I wanted to do was get plugged in, stick my head in whatever book I was reading and glance at the clock periodically. The hours could not pass quickly enough for me.

My husband was the only person I ever ‘allowed’ to go in the chemo room with me. And his chair was of the uncomfortable whatever-type-happened-to-be-available kind. My kids never accompanied me. I didn’t allow that. I didn’t want them to have the memory of sitting there observing me in a chemo chair. Plus, there never would have been enough chairs for them anyway!

Maybe I’m an odd ball, but that’s how I coped.

Back to 2011.

Now at the ‘new and improved’ cancer clinic, the cancer patient has his or her own wing. It’s wonderful. Cancer people don’t have to share their space with non-cancer people. There is a private entrance. This is really nice because sometimes when you are undergoing treatment you want to be as inconspicuous as possible. Plus, you don’t have to ride an elevator to the fifth floor standing three feet (or less) from people who are staring at your port thinking, oh you poor thing. Or worse, what the heck is that? There are now private chemo rooms for anyone who wants one. There are also way more comfortable looking recliners, as well as more comfortable chairs for cancer companions.

Whoever designed the new addition is very wise, understands the needs of cancer people, knows someone who has had cancer or possibly even had cancer his or herself. Everything about the new cancer addition is better.

Well, everything that is except the cancer part.

It’s still a cancer wing, but it is a huge improvement and does make the experience of being in the oncology department a bit less unnerving. I did say a bit.

And even now, I can’t fathom the fact that I need an oncologist.

Yes, maybe this summer would have been a ‘better’ summer for chemo, but that’s ok.  I’m glad chemo is behind me, even if my timing was a little off.

Has your timing ever been a little off?

How do you feel about your cancer treatment facility?


23 thoughts to “My Timing Was a Little Off”

  1. Nancy this is a very timely post for me as I contemplate whether or not to ‘do’ the chemo thing. I see myself as one of those dreadful people that snores as they sleep and my way of dealing with difficulties currently is to sleep.
    I have not yet seen the chemo room at the Mater although I believe it is crowded almost all of the time.
    I will think of you as I progress down the path.
    It does seem there is a huge improvement in your hospital’s facilities now though.
    Live, Laugh and Love♥

    1. Chez, Thank you so much for commenting. I hope you come to a decision soon that is right for you. These choices are not easy ones to make are they? You are most certainly not a dreadful person, Chez, even if snoring! I will be thinking of you, too, as you make your decisions. My best to you and good luck with things.

  2. Your post resonated with me. It seems that every community is building a bigger and more beautiful cancer center, and this just makes me sad, that we NEED all these beautiful new cancer centers because so many folks are getting cancer! I’d rather go to a crappy cancer center and know that cancer was out the door, rather than go to a spanking new cancer, knowing that more and more people are getting it.

    1. Adena, Thanks so much for commenting and your point is really a good one. It is really sad that we continue to need all of these cancer facilities isn’t it, but since we do seem to need them, I appreciate the thoughtful design that goes into the new ones a lot. Like you, I would much rather see a crappy cancer center if it meant fewer patients walking through the doors!

  3. Hi Nancy,

    Your posting really hit home. My cancer center went through a complete, state-of-the-art renovation after my treatments. I love that it no longer looks like the building where I was so sick and scared. It eliminates flashbacks.

    I can totally understand why you didn’t want your children to see you in the chemo chamber.

    Regarding the sharing a chemo room, I often shared it with people of all sorts of backgrounds. To be honest, I loved sharing the room. You see — and I’ve not said this in public before — I was alone.

    I really mean alone.

    My parents couldn’t handle my illness, so they didn’t want to be there. My brother and aunt called every week. My then-husband refused to go with me (we are thankfully divorced).

    My chemo nurse often sat down with me to keep me company, and other chemo patients tried to lift my spirits. One couple whose daughter was getting chemo went and got me things to drink.

    I drove myself to all my radiation and chemo appointments, and after chemo I drove myself home.

    I’m going to write a blog soon about all the sweet guardian angels who took such good care of me. I wish I knew who they were, so I could thank them for helping me feel as if I were not alone.

    1. Beth, It must be strange to go to the building where you were treated and see it so changed. I imagine in some ways that does help to not remember it as it was. Oh Beth, it makes me so sad to think you felt so alone at that time. I’m so sorry you had to endure so much all by yourself. Look where you are today though, a strong independent woman and mom! I will definitely look forward to that blog post. I’m sure those guardian angels were happy to be of help. Are your parents handling it all better these days? I’m sure it’s been really hard for them too. Thanks so much for sharing.

  4. My treatment was in a nice cancer center, but the space was still crowded and often caregivers couldn’t stay in the room because of space. Like Beth, I went alone so I appreciated the company of the other patients and the nurses. I handled the treatment pretty well so often I was available to be a support to someone getting treatment for the first time or to be a friend to someone else who appeared to be along. I remember well how scared I wasmy first time. I had one treatment out of area in at a large city hospital cancer center where I had my own curtained area. I was very glad I had a friend with me as otherwise it would have been very lonely, and a TV is no substitute for human interaction whether from a friend, another patient, or a nurse.

    1. Betty, It’s great you were able to support others getting treatment, especially those first timers. Like it was for you and most people I suppose, that first time was pretty darn frightening for me too. You’re right about TV being no substitute, but I guess whatever works for a person is fine. Thanks so much for sharing, Betty.

  5. Nancey currently in my city we are in the process of building a State of the Art health Facility which includes an astounding Cancer treatment area. There will be 3 radiation machines constantly in use. The areas will have natural light great areas for Chemo. Instead of the crowded conditions we experience now. Doctors nurses are always lagging behind because the chemo areas and their recliner chairs are always full. Our new Hospital is scheduled to open in 2012 in the spring. It will be affiliated with the Universities in conjunction being a teaching hospital. And the best part is a patient will not have to pay one penny for treatment. They will have continued access to their Oncologist, Palliative Care Dept. There will be healing gardens ponds for peaceful reflection. It’s been a long time in coming.
    Here is a you tube link to if you like to have a look. Compared to what we have now in ways of crowding this place is unbelieveable!!

    1. Alli, Thank you for sharing about the new facility that is being built in your city. So where exactly do you live? Canada? Like Adena mentioned in her comment, it’s sad we need these facilities isn’t it? Thanks for the link, Alli.

  6. That sounds really nice that anyone going in for chemo will get his or her personal room. It seems odd that they crammed everyone in the same room before even though I know that’s just the way it’s been. Talk about awkward.

    1. Lindsay, Yes it is nice if a person wants privacy to have a private room as an option. There actually was one ‘private’ room when I had chemo too, but I never took it because I felt somebody else might be in greater need of it than me. And most things about cancer are awkward actually.

  7. I did my chemo at a big Kaiser Permanente in my hometown. It wasn’t specifically a “cancer” place, although I did walk into the wing that said “Chemotherapy suite” Makes it sound kind of swanky, eh? But for my radiation, I had to go to another place that said really big on the side of the building, “Southwest Cancer Care” That was really bizarre walking into a place labeled like that. Kind of a self-protective denial thing, I guess.

    1. Tonya, Oh my gosh, “Chemotherapy Suite” that does sound almost swanky if you didn’t know better! I have never heard it called that before. For some reason it makes me laugh. I know what you mean about walking into a place with a cancer label over the doorway, it just doesn’t feel real does it? There is a sign at my clinic’s entrance to the chemo area that says, ‘”for chemo patients and their families only.” It makes me feel kinda ostrisized in a way, although I kind of like it at the same time. It’s just an odd feeling all the way around I guess. Thanks so much for commenting, Tonya.

  8. Nancy,
    Great post, as usual! I’m sure you are truly glad that your chemo was last summer, regardless of the obviously posh setting of the new center. The photos tell of an impressive and welcoming new facility.

    My timing was off the second time I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003. My husband and I (without the kids just like you and for the same reasons) had to travel 30 minutes each way to get to the nearest cancer center. But this clinic had a healing garden to view and one private room. The private room always seemed to be vacant when I came, as if they were reserving it for me and my husband. A nice touch. And the cancer clinic was not shared with non-cancer patients, which was a plus.

    In 2004 a new cancer facility opened four miles from my house with a private entrance and all the trappings. I just glanced into the infusion room so I don’t know how many private rooms it has.

    Still, I’m glad I had the chemo when I did. This nearer cancer center outgrew its building in a few years and may have to construct an addition because we have so many elderly people living in my neck of the woods. They didn’t do their demographic homework.

    I think our timing will always be a bit off, whether it’s with new medical developments or new facilities. We live with it as part of life. I try to look on these things as improvements to benefit future generations. I got my improvements from those who went before me. And on it goes.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

    1. Jan, Yes, I sure am glad my chemo was last summer, even if the conditions were a bit crowded and uncomfortable at times! The physical surroundings really aren’t the important things anyway really, the people surrounding you are far more important aren’t they? It must have been really nice to have that private room though. You are so right, in life it often seems like our timing is off on stuff doesn’t it? We keep on muddling our way through the best way we can. And all the improvements we see are sure to benefit future patients. That’s a good way to look at it. Thanks for sharing. I always look forward to your thoughts, Jan.

  9. Nancey the hospital they are building is in the Niagara Region – St Catharines Ontario Canada…Not far from Niagara Falls itself approximately 10 miles..I thought about it later and realized how many Cancer Centers there are withing a 100 mile radius. There are at least 7 huge centers if not a few I have missed and not even realizing how little room is available..That to me is a disturbing fact….Alli.

    1. Alli, Thank you for clarifying that location. After your last comment about the need for so many cancer centers, I thought about that a bit more. It is disturbing isn’t it? That is such a good point. We need more emphasis on prevention and cure that’s for sure.

  10. Good for you for not subjecting your kids to seeing you go through chemo. Although my mom was only sick for the last few years of her life and was vibrant and lovely the rest of the time before that, I have to work really hard to remember her not sick. I have to searrch my brain to remember her regular voice, not her sick voice, and I have to stretch to picture her well instead of bald, weak, and skinny. She tried to spare me from the worst of the whole mess, but some things were unavoidable. Ugh.

    1. Pinkunderbelly, I’m so sorry it’s hard for you to remember your mom when she wasn’t sick. Maybe that will get easier over time. I can seperate the two visions of my mom pretty easily most of the time. I try not to focus on her final months, but sometimes it is really hard, so I understand exactly where you’re coming from. It’s sweet your mom tried to spare you from the worst. That’s a mom for you. Unfortunately, cancer doesn’t really fully allow that does it? Thanks for sharing.

  11. Interesting to hear about all of the building! The cancer hospital that I go to is specifically for cancer. They have been building a huge new wing throughout my treatment. The hospital is already huge, and it does pain me that they need the additional room.

    The infusion rooms were always bursting with patients. I didn’t mind being surrounded by people! I did always get sat next to the person snoring the loudest though. 🙂

    1. Mandi, It sounds like you have a nice cancer hospital, if there is such a thing. That’s kind of a misnomer I guess isn’t it? It is sad we need to keep building more and more of these facilities. Think of all the money we are spending on them that might be put to research and a cure. If only that was possible. Still, I’m thankful to have these facilites available, but if only…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *