Reading survivors’ stories

The clinic where I’ve been going for radiation treatments (42, so far) has a support group, which I haven’t attended, and throughout the building, large black and white photographs of previous patients who ended up cancer-free. Each photo is accompanied by a small plaque with several paragraphs of text that briefly tell each person’s story.

Inasmuch as my prostate cancer was caught early and wasn’t particularly aggressive, I didn’t feel the need for the support group; I think I might have felt out of place had each meeting been filled with people fighting cancers more like that of Jeopardy host Alex Trebek. However, I have felt a silent and on-going measure of support from the photographs and each individual’s successful fight (or multiple fights) against cancer.

Harbin Clinic, Rome, GA

Since I tend to arrive at the clinic a little early, I’ve read each story multiple times. Even with a somewhat low-grade cancer, I still find comfort in all those words and smiling faces.

In the local Wendys, there’s a lady (Shirley) about my age who gives me trouble about everything because I give her trouble about everything. Last week, she told me she hadn’t seen me for a while and thought I looked sick. When I said I was taking hormone and radiation treatments for cancer, she said her husband had gone through the drill a couple of times. We had the same doctor, as it turns out.

There’s a small bell in the clinic’s waiting room with a plaque instructing people to ring it when they’re cancer-free. So, I asked Shirley if her husband was still with us. She smiled and said he is. Said, “Did he ring that bell on his last day at the clinic?”

“Your darn right he did,” she said. We high-fived without damaging our hands or my junior bacon cheeseburger.

My radiation treatments end this Thursday. Since the recently developed MRI that can see cancer cells is probably still in testing, I’ll have to wait a while before standard tests will tell me what these daily visits have accomplished. But, if the staff should one day ask me to ring that bell, I will. Not because my journey has been scarey but because the sound might bring those in the waiting room a dosage of hope.

Malcolm

4 thoughts on “Reading survivors’ stories

  1. Anyone who has gone through as many radiation treatments as you have shouldn’t feel out of place with other cancer survivors. That is a lot of radiation!! Just to survive that is remarkable.

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