She wears a burgundy scarf, tied tightly around her bare head. I cannot even hazard a guess at her age…she could be anywhere between 50 and 80, so much has the disease ravaged her body. She bundles up in multiple layers, and asks for a warm blanket, too. And she’s so very pale. And yet…she flips open that iPad like it’s her job and talks about FaceTiming with her granddaughter and swipes her finger across the screen with the same ease as my daughter. She’s a cancer patient, and from the looks of it, she’s right in the throes of the worst cancer can mete out.
I’ve seen her twice now. She gets chemo in the same IV therapy suite where I’ve been doing iron infusions for the last two weeks. I sit there for 90 minutes while saline and then iron are pushed into my bloodstream. It doesn’t hurt. But I get very groggy and very cold because they dose you with Benadryl and Pepcid as precautions. Iron itches terribly going in. And it wreaks havoc on your stomach. The Benadryl comes in pill form (which knocks me out) and the Pepcid in ice-cold liquid form–straight into your IV. Ever felt cold liquid being pushed into your veins? It’s not cool. Not at all.
I’m fine. Just really anemic. And the hope is that these infusions have done their work and I’ll be on my way and no longer constantly exhausted and always dead-of-winter pale. I’m good. Others in the IV therapy suite are not.
Like the couple sitting two chairs down. He wore a Korean War veteran cap and also an oxygen machine. She was there for chemo, and the tenderness with which he looked at her, the care that he displayed as she dealt with the meds, the way he held her hand…it just about killed me, y’all. She was so frail. And he was tender towards her.
And then there was the Baby Boomer guy–there to get his IV port flushed, and as he left the suite he called out, “See you soon,” to the nurses, like it’s a way of life for him. And I guess maybe it is.
And all I could think, as I sat there, fighting sleep from the Benadryl, freezing from the Pepcid, and with iron dripping slowly into my bloodstream, all I could think was that the world was so crazy outside, so unstable, so angry and loud, and yet here, in this IV therapy suite, people were fighting for their lives. Rage on, dark world, but here in this space, people are caring for one another like their lives depend on it…because their lives do.
God I wish we could extend the same care and concern to and for one another across our country…across the world.How I wish we could see past the bullshit labels and the assumptions and the stereotypes and see the holy bits that exist in each of us. How done I am with how we hate and discriminate and judge and divide when those are the very last things we were created for. It’s all so wrong. So completely and totally against what it means to be human. And we do it anyway. To our own detriment.
Maybe if we realize our lives depended on it…because they do…we’d act differently. Maybe if we realized what all is at stake. Maybe if we were able to truly see that your blood is no different than mine and by that fact alone we are in this together. Maybe….
I don’t know. But I know that today I was reminded of our very basic and essential and same humanity in a very powerful and humbling way. Only being in that suite for an iron transfusion didn’t make me special.Lucky, perhaps, but not special. We were all in the moment together, beeping machines and tethered to IV poles and asking for ginger ale and fighting fatigue, all of it. Together.
I feel like that burgundy-scarf clad woman may not be on this earth for long. So I’m grateful I saw her. That we made eye contact and smiled. That we acknowledged each other’s humanity.
Because really…this is what we were made for. Life together. First and always. And what a total shift it would be if we chose to actually live that truth.