The Elephant in the Room is Cancer. Tea is the Relief Conversation Provides.

I Hate Thursdays

by Brianne DollarSurvivor, AMLNovember 29, 2023View more posts from Brianne Dollar

I hate Thursdays. I can’t say there isn’t a day in the week where I’m not reminded about my experience, where I’m not facing the reality of everything I’ve been through, where a simple butterfly motif or a duck waddling past won’t bring tears to my eyes or where a small bruise won’t send me into a panic. But Thursdays, Thursdays are the worst.

Every Thursday, I walk into the cancer center around 9 am. The ladies behind the front desk have already checked me in before I even make it to my chair. We exchange hellos while I sit down next to someone at least three times my age. I give them a half-hearted smile as they usually give me a look of pity. I can’t help but laugh a little inside. The woman that’ll be next to me in the treatment room is getting chemotherapy to hopefully give her a few more months with her family—I’ve been cancer-free for four years, yet I get that look.

The pity look—that is the look that sends me back to the days when I didn’t have to be sitting in an oncologist’s office to get that look. When my bald head and lack of eyebrows made everyone turn their heads and give me that same look. Still to this day, when I receive “the look,” I find myself thinking of me walking into the restaurant after my high school graduation. Several graduates and their families were there, but it was me who got treated with kid gloves. “You’re so inspiring” and so many anecdotes all while just trying to smile knowing the news I’d been given earlier that week: the relapse scare that prepared me for the real thing.

By the time the nurse calls me back, I’ve already remembered all the waiting rooms I’ve been in before.

As I wait for my name to be called out, I think of all the waiting rooms I’ve been in before. The urgent care I visited seven times before I was diagnosed, the other urgent care who would call me the next day to go to the ER, whose waiting room I would only see for three short minutes before they ushered me back to meet with the doctor. The clinic waiting room at the children’s hospital, which I rarely saw given my inpatient treatment plan, but will never forget sitting there a few months off treatment and trying to act normal around the other cancer families knowing what I was likely going to be told that day. And the waiting room where I laughed with my best friend all the times I went to go see my BMT team. Years have passed, but the feeling of waiting never leaves my memory.

By the time the nurse shuffles in, singing the fun song she’s chosen as my intro music, I laugh as normal, jump on the scale, and sit down. As she accesses my port, I think about how I avoided a port for all my cancer treatment just to need one now, but when the first flush goes in, it still tastes the same as when they’d push it through the central line that got me through all my days of chemotherapy and hospitalizations. But at least my port hasn’t tried to kill me. I shake off the thought of one of the worst moments in my treatment as my labs are taken and I find my way into the treatment room. As usual, they tell me to “sit wherever you like,” but I always know exactly where I’m going. Third seat in, always right in front of the TV, and usually next to my regular neighbor. She isn’t here today. Not like she’s there every single Thursday morning, but I can’t help but feel a sense of panic whenever she’s not sitting there with her purple blanket and coffee mug full of tea and some sweet she’ll inevitably offer to me. I can’t help but think that maybe last week was the last time we got to laugh together about a poorly timed commercial or the characters on Gunsmoke. Just like the last day I spent with my best friend, the last game of Connect 4 I played with Michael, the last text I sent to Rachel. I never knew they were the lasts until they were.

My treatment nurse brings me my favorite snack and a juice along with a warm blanket and a liter of fluids. I scarf down the small cookies and try and get comfortable on the chair, knowing I probably never will. It’s not a bad chair—it even has a heater and massage functions and you can put it as far back as you want. But it sits the exact same as the chair in my hospital room, which when not occupied by one of my parents, was my sitting place, as I hated staying in the bed for days and days on end. I scroll my phone while the fluids run, my Instagram feed filled with many other survivors and stories that will make the guilt just a bit more real.

The sounds of machines beeping will always have my eyes darting around the room, stopping my scrolling for a moment. Flashes of being awoken at 3 am to the sounds will flood my memory, and I’ll begin to think of all the long nights I spent in a chair not unlike this one, waking up to the sounds of the beeps until it’s finally my machine that’s beeping and my nurse is headed towards me with a pile of syringes to begin my treatment.

As she sits next to me, I try to talk about everything but cancer, while it’s the only thing on my mind. She begins pulling out blood, a cruel irony of the fact that getting so much blood for the time I was on treatment left too much iron behind that now I have to give it back. Between conversations about movies, music, and the trip to Mexico my nurse just got back from, flashes of thoughts and pains from the times I would be sitting in my hospital room, high on Benadryl, trying to ignore the hives come into my brain.

By the time my nurse is done, I’ve gone through more fluids, I’ve nearly passed out twice, and I’ve thought of pretty much every moment I try and repress almost every other day. On the way back home, I’ll grab one of my favorite snacks—never sour cream and onion pringles or chocolate pudding, once my treatment faves that will never sit on my shelf again—and I’ll try to go back to forgetting, until the smell of a lens wipe, a Facebook post, a cut that bleeds a little too long, or a dream pulls me back into the panicked thoughts racing in my mind. And next week, I will hate Thursdays all over again.

Join the Conversation!

Leave a comment below. Remember to keep it positive!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *