(continued from Part One May 2017)
Kevin and I leave the car with the very busy valet guy and walk into Cancerland to check in for chemo. As we wait in line I carefully look around me trying not to appear as if im staring even though I am staring. The number of people checking in for chemo never fails to shock me as I peruse the check in line noticing the grateful use of the benches that line the walls to the check in desk. People here for more treatment who are so weak they cannot even stand in line. Kevin senses what I am thinking as he reaches for my hand and gives me a strong squeeze. I look down at the floor so I dont start to cry.
When its my turn to check in I am asked to extend my right arm. The woman fits me with a hospital band to wear on my wrist, an official marker branding me a cancer patient and then I am asked to take my check in paperwork to the second floor.
On the second floor I hand the paper to the chemotherapy check in station and my wrist band is verified by a nurse. I hide a smirk as I think to myself, who would impersonate a cancer patient to get poisoned by chemotherapy? But protocol is protocol in institutions so I do as I am told as Kevin and I scan the room for a seat in a space full of other cancer patients waiting for their turn in the chair. We spy an open two seats towards the back of the room and head over to them, Kevin dragging the cooler of ice noisily in our wake. We take a seat and look around at the people, some wearing face masks, some wearing beanies or caps to cover their bald heads, and some are toting oxygen tanks or coolers similar to ours. I pull out my phone to scroll Instagram hoping it will transport me mentally to the world outside Cancerland, smiling to myself as I see photos of people doing normal things-fun things. People posting videos and pictures of vacations, their adorable children, yoga events and inspirational quotes...I contemplate posting a picture from within Cancerland but decide against it. I don't want to bum anyone out.
After a while I hear my name called loud and clear from a nurse assistant in brown scrubs. Brown is the color worn by the nurse aides, Burgundy is worn by the chemo nurses, and dark blue is worn by the lab technicians who wander in and out of the cubicles from time to time. As we are guided to our chemo chair of the day we stop at the scale for my weigh in that is in front of the big glass window that looks into the chemo pharmacy room. The people inside of that sealed glass enclosure wear white hazardous material uniforms that protect them head to toe from the dangerous chemicals they will soon be injecting into my body. I look away from the window in fear and amazement wondering how I will be able to sit and receive again today the poison they will mix up special just for me.
Getting chemo is like getting your hand slammed so hard in a car door and it hurts so badly every instinct in your body screams out at the thought of feeling pain like that again but you return in a few weeks and metaphorically stick your hand in the car door, holding very still as they slam your innocent hand between two crushing hunks of metal again. After awhile it makes you a little insane as you go against all your instincts of preservation, telling yourself that the poison is a good thing, its the thing that will save your life or at least extend your life for a while longer.
The physical side effects from cancer are not pleasant but it is the mental side effects that are often much worse and they linger long after the treatments are complete. This is where yoga can help. If one can allow the yoga room to become a safe space for them, yoga classes can become a sanctuary that facilitates mental and emotional healing from the trauma that a cancer diagnosis can bring for the person with cancer and for the people who support them through their journey. Eventually the need for wearing face masks go away, the hair grows back and the body returns to its "new normal" post treatment but the mind may need much longer to adjust to this new life and deal with the fallout from a cancer diagnosis.
Yoga helps to heal and I am grateful for our community that supports the donation based yoga for cancer recovery classes offered by Be Well. North County San Diego Yogis are AWESOME!!
Happy Summer from this yogini who currently is free from cancer and not getting her hand smashed in Cancerland this summer!!! I"m free as a bird right now and soaking it all in!