The Chemo Room

When I was first diagnosed with Breast Cancer, I went for a consult at a fancy clinic attached to one of the major hospitals here in South Florida.  I was terrified.  I remember sitting in the car, literally shaking and not wanting to go in.  I had all these visions in my head of a waiting room filled with sad, sick women, with scarves on their heads and no hope in their eyes.  When I got in there, I was pleasantly surprised.  The waiting room was decorated in warm, soothing colors, and it didn’t feel as depressing as I had imagined.  After meeting with the Oncologist, who was very young, but whom I liked, I was given a tour of the rest of the facility.  They had a mini-spa for massages and facials, a salon for trying on wigs, and, of course, the chemo room.  The chemo room was a large space, with chairs set up behind curtains and flat screen TV’s attached to the chairs.  I saw women hooked up to IV’s, most with a family member or friend sitting with them, but no one was talking or interacting. I left with the plan that I would get chemo once a week, for about an hour, starting with one medication, then switching to another after about 8 weeks.  The whole process would take about 16 weeks.  As news spread of my diagnosis, I was encouraged to get a second opinion.  The name of one particular doctor kept popping up as highly recommended.  That doctor was Dr. Elizabeth Tan-Chiu, and I firmly believe she, and her chemo room, saved my life – although I almost didn’t give them the chance.

When I first walked into Dr. Tan-Chiu’s office, I was disappointed. It was a far cry from the comforts and high-tech amenities they had at the first clinic I went to.  The waiting room was small and white, with no pictures on the wall or anything decorative. I started to have my doubts.  When they showed me the chemo room, I almost turned around and left.  It was a large room, freezing cold, with several women sitting in recliners, hooked up to IV’s and covered in blankets.  The chemo nurse introduced me and everyone said hello and gave me words of encouragement.  The nurse, Cathy, explained that the chemo room was also a therapy room of sorts.  This is where women came to be healed and to help heal each other.  She said I would get to know these ladies very well throughout my treatment.  At that point in time, I was horrified.  I didn’t want to be out in the open where anyone could see everything happening to me and where I would actually have to talk to people.  I just wanted to get my chemo and be done with it.  Then, I met with Dr. Tan-Chiu and she changed my mind.  She had a different, more aggressive treatment plan and didn’t sugarcoat my situation, the way I realized my first Oncologist had.  After some discussion with my partner, I decided to pursue treatment with Dr. Tan-Chiu.  It was the best decision I ever made.  Dr. Tan-Chiu is amazing, and that chemo room, the one that so horrified me, became a safe haven for me.  I found strength, love, hope and happiness in that room.  Things I never imagined when I peeked in that first day.  I spent a lot of time there – some days from 9 in the morning until they closed after 5 in the evening.  We did become a support group for each other. The ladies I had the honor of sharing that room with gave me inspiration, information, support, and acceptance.  I looked forward to being there and seeing everyone.  Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all hugs and happiness.  There were tough times and tears, scary moments, painful moments, and heartbreaking moments.  Crazy as it may sound, I miss it sometimes.  So, here’s to the room where I was healed, and most importantly, here’s to the ladies who healed each other.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Helen
    Jan 29, 2015 @ 06:56:49

    That was a well written and encourging story. Well done lady. Helen

    Reply

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