A Stranger

I posted about this a couple years ago but a friend recently asked me to retell the story. So you old-timers might recognize this one.

Ten years ago I was going through radiation treatments for lymphoma. Every morning I drove an hour and a half to the cancer center, took off all my clothes, put on this robe, and sat in a room with others in their robes.

There was no socializing. There was little, if any, talking. Everything going on in that room was internalized. We were all head down, thoughts inward. Preparing for what we knew was coming, and how awful we were going to feel in a couple hours, and how sick we were going to be the rest of the day.

We were simply breathing. Grateful to be breathing, but able to do nothing more than take the next step right in front of us.

There was an older woman in that group. Short, steel-gray hair. She was always there before me, and when I walked in, she would lift her chin in greeting. We could manage an acknowledgement, but that was it.

Three or four years later I was in a grocery store, in the produce section, and happened to look up. And there she was. We met each other’s eyes and immediately burst into tears.

She was alive.

We hugged. We asked each other how the prognosis was going, how the healing was going. That’s when I found out she’d been in there for breast cancer.

And then we moved on to finish our shopping.

We never asked for each other’s name, or phone number, or email.

It was so random, to run into her there, of all places. That we happened to be, not just in the same town and the same store, but the same section at that exact same moment in time.

Years passed.

Two years ago I was…you guessed it…back at that same store. And there she was.

Once again, as soon as we met eyes, we were crying. We hugged. We asked those questions. Are you still free? She was. I wasn’t. I’d just finished another round of radiation and was still pretty sick. But I was able to tell her it was a precaution only and all was good. We cried some more.

We never asked for each other’s name, or phone number, or email.

She’s a complete stranger. I know nothing about who she is as a person, or what her family is like, or any of the myriad of stories we associate with those we know.

Yet I count her as a close friend.

And some day I’ll run into her again.

Sick Humor

I’ve struggled to come up with a blog post about writing while my brain is briefly occupied with other matters. So I thought I’d write about what is on my mind.

I’ve joked around lately about being an expert barfer. Radiation treatments and anti-nausea pills have brought that home. I’m actually serious.

When I was pregnant the doctor said I was the only patient he’d ever had who got tendonitis in their feet from kneeling so much in front of the toilet.

When I was an EMT I could work on a patient, grab up the handy little waste basket, and go back to work without the patient (and sometimes without the paramedic or driver) knowing anything gross had just happened.

Over the past year I’ve provided hilarious moments for doctors and staff as they try to teach me to gargle without barfing. I can’t gargle. It’s unnatural. They want me to gargle numbing medication so I can have endoscopes. They now tell me that swallowing is okay, too. Oh, and they have to give me a double dose of the amnesia anesthetic because – you guessed it – even when I’m unconscious I’m busy.

And let’s not forget sympathy. I feel so sorry for someone else barfing, that I have to keep them company. The dogs in particular. And especially while trying to clean up a dog that’s rolled in dead salmon. But if the dog does something on the rug, I have two options. Join in as I clean. Or, stare at the wall as I drop paper towels in the vicinity, hoping to hit the target, and then leaving the neatly covered bit for the husband.

The husband told me once that I was a ‘dainty barfer’. I had no idea what he was talking about until the first time he got sick in our life together. My god, that man is a pro. I swear he puts his whole head inside to make it echo. You could be down below in town miles away and know what he’s doing.

I sympathized.

I know blog posts are supposed to have photos so people read them. But I don’t believe in ‘selfies’. Especially when I’m being dainty.

And now I’m going to get in the truck for the drive to work. With ginger tea, handy little barf bags from the doctor, and a roll of paper towels.

Yep, I can barf and drive at the same time.