Friday, June 17, 2016

Even the stairwells are haunted in Cancerville

There’s a suite of offices at Dana-Farber that has a couple of admins, some filing cabinets and a coffee maker. I walk briskly past it every Friday on my way from one meeting to another as though I am trying to discretely run from a ghost. Once upon a time, that was a clinical floor, and I was a patient getting blood work in the post-diagnosis haze of Cancerville. Now I find myself trying hard not to see the color of the walls the way my mind recalls them from my days in the chair. I’m in that place that lies between patient/advocate/scientist. You know, where you are grooming over patient data in a Johnny waiting for a scan, and then looking at a genomic analysis after you get your results?

Over the past 6 years, I’ve been imaged on every machine in the Partners system, some multiple times. After each scan, I find a new place to sit and wait in mortal fear of what will be delivered on the other end of my cricket ring tone. As a result, I’ve infected every inch of that massive complex with my very rational fears.  

But that’s just me, and I can handle myself.

What I truly struggle with are the ever-present faces of my friends who I saw in earnest for the last time in that cafeteria, or in that waiting room, or in radiology, or on a bed in Brigham’s. In only one instance did I know for sure that I was walking away from a friend forever. I ducked into a stairwell and wept silently. My tears were met with the most heart wrenching sound that haunts me to this day. It could only have come from a person at the instant they found out that their loved one died. We can’t make that sound, it has to be ripped from us.

So if you see me walking down the hall a little fast, or eating my lunch facing the wall, or reluctant to stand on one particular side walk, it’s ok, really. In the words of Bobby D. ‘It’s life and life only’


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