Chemo Round Seven had a different feel. Only two guests were allowed at a time. Daniel was super nauseous. We distributed chicken nuggets to chemo patients, and we were moved by conversations in the waiting room.
This chemo began the second half of Daniel’s treatment plan of twelve cycles. His white blood cell count was low which for most cancer patients means delaying the chemo. However, studies have shown that it is best for Hodgkin Lymphoma patients to continue the schedule of their chemo treatment plan and the following day, receive a shot of Neulasta to boost the white blood cell count.
Our usual first stop included a pick up at Chick Fil A. Owner Chuck Campbell, once again, graciously donated chicken for those on the chemo floor. This time, we had a warming bag of trays of chicken nuggets along with containers of their scrumptious sauces. mmm
At each chemo thus far, we’ve walked the floor, visiting cancer patients and bestowing food with extended arms, a smile, and a phrase like, “We brought this to be a blessing today” or “Chick Fil A just wanted to bless you on your chemo visit today.” It’s been a wonderful gift to embrace this world of cancer and learn to comfortably dialogue with others using words we previously danced around, uncertain if saying the C word was okay to utter.
As a mother who has been intentional to raise “others-focused” kids who communicate even in uncomfortable situations, I have welcomed these real-life opportunities to expand their comfort zone of our six kids, ages 15-26. Even though some siblings live out of town, each has been a part of at least one chemo. Every single one of us has been impacted… for the good.
Uh oh, only two guests per patient were allowed on the chemo floor today. So I decided I’d sit in the waiting room, have some desired alone time, work on pending projects, and rotate in and out between visitors. Grandparents, an uncle, his dad, his brother, three sisters each on Spring Break, and others dropped by throughout the six-hour stay.
My waiting room experience was not quite the solitude I had anticipated. We’d formed relationships over the past three months, so as patients and caregivers entered and exited the floor, some smiled and waved, and others asked about Daniel and updated me on their lives. So, I shifted my focus to just go with the flow. I’m glad I did or my inability to accomplish my priority would have frustrated me and prevented me from these more significant, memorable moments.
WAITING ROOM MEMORABLE MOMENT #1: Lisa, who was introduced in a previous post, came over and sat for a spell. Within minutes, we were exchanging stories, laughing one minute and crying the next. We shared unexpected blessings from life inside “The C Club.” Life lived with purpose. Altered priorities. Not sweating the small stuff. Compassion. An acute awareness of those going through difficulty and a determination to help. Abundant ideas to help others. A tenderheartedness. Experiencing first hand the joy and peace in the midst of battling cancer even with an unknown outcome. Salvation secure. God is real. #doyouknowHim
Lisa shared about losing her hair. Me oh my! I am always moved by this particular point in each cancer patient’s journey.Tears flowed as she peeled back more layers, allowing me to understand the intimate, emotional journey. She had three wigs. One was $400. One was $300. And the one that best fit her personality and former hairstyle, had a price tag of over $300. As she was about to purchase it at In the Pink, one of the employees said, “We’re taking care of this for you.” More tears. What? I had never heard of this place. So, she told me more about this amazing local ministry that served 2000 people in the Jacksonville area in 2014.
In the Pink is a non-profit boutique providing everything a cancer patient would need in one location. The founder Jeri Millard survived cervical cancer at age 29 and breast cancer at age 44. During her second bout with cancer, her vision of this store began. She kept a running list of all items she would have in this friendly environment. Wigs, hats, scarves, mastectomy products, compression kits, free yoga, emotional support… Several years later, in 2009, BOOM! In the Pink opened in Jacksonville Beach, Florida; then a second mini-space on the second floor of the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Jacksonville; and in 2014 a third location began in Sarasota, Florida. What a beautiful ministry. God doesn’t waste our journeys… if we would just embrace them.
WAITING ROOM MEMORABLE MOMENT #2: I was reminded today that everyone has a story. Beneath the skillsets observed and the services provided, there is a person with unique experiences that have shaped who they are.
Daniel’s sisters and I, along with Gabi and her mother Paula were talking and doing our own thang, when Linda, the chemo floor receptionist leaned over the counter and asked if we wanted the TV turned on. We declined, jokingly inviting her instead to leave her desk and come join the partay. She did just that.
I was curious to know if she specifically chose to work with cancer patients or if this was simply where she was placed. Was cancer part of her past? Just what was her story? Everybody’s got a story to tell.
I asked about her family. She lit up when she mentioned her one and only son Dillon.
In 2012, at the age of 18, Dillon had a sudden and intense pain that shot up his legs, so fierce that it knocked him to the floor, incapacitating him. Life as they knew it radically changed that day. Dillon was paralyzed. He had Transverse Myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord which often targets insulating material covering nerve cell fibers, disrupting the transmission of nerve signals. I mean, CAN YOU IMAGINE? Linda smiled and cried as she shared the story of her brave son, his personality, determination, adventurous spirit, and his adjustment to life in a wheelchair, She bragged about his wheelchair-basketball team, his fight, and the accomplishments of skiing and other crazy adventures. I mean, this guy was at a concert and he was lifted above the crowd – wheelchair and all. WOW! We were all misty-eyed. Linda beamed as she voiced, “That’s why I love working here on this floor… I understand pain and difficulty.” I was grateful that three of my daughters and my future daughter-in-law were right there alongside me hearing her story unfold. #anothergift
Here’s a local TV station interview where you can see Dillon and his wheelchair basketball team. Brooks Ballers wheelchair basketball team. Dillon speaks at 1.34.
Meanwhile back on the chemo floor. Gabi was able to come in town midweek, a two hour drive from college, to sit by Daniel’s side. Her professors have been very accommodating and supportive. (If any of you are reading this, thank you.)
The smells associated with chemo triggered nausea the moment he stepped onto the third floor. Nothing sounded appetizing. He continually spit into the green bag provided as a staple item for chemo patients. He was curled up in a warm blanket. He was quieter this time and looked pale. That’s hard to watch.
Imagine my delight when he finally requested specific foods. His dad popped in with an extra large acai smoothie that made him do the “Daniel grin.” #mamalike. And soon, thereafter, he replied to his brother’s text with an exact lunch order. lol
It melts my heart to see my sons doing life like this. There for each other. Sitting and just being. Loving through sharing time and.. well, a mutual love of food.
Today’s quieter situation gave Daniel an opportunity to converse one on one with a lady who had cancer years ago when she was pregnant. And here she was again receiving chemo, this time accompanied by her now-teenage daughter. A middle age mother encouraging a twenty-two year old young man and vice versa. What a precious sight.
Nauseous is a one-word summary of Daniel’s chemo visit today- for the noncancer world. He says it’s hard to adequately describe his symptoms. “Everything tastes like soap.” His most recent attempt at articulating how he’s feeling is, “Like I have chemo in me.”
Here are a few more photos to allow you to peer into our #danielkickscancer journey, chemo round seven -as seen through the eyes of me, his mother. The final photo may be the image of Daniel I have in my mind for chemo round seven. The ride home. Green “spit” bag in hand. Queasy. Dizzy. Fatigued. Dry mouth. Soapy taste. Disgusting flavor. Chills. Cold spine. Hungry. Not Hungry. Wiped out. He’ll sleep into the evening.
I’d love to hear your thoughts- no matter if you’re a cancer patient, a caregiver, or someone just learning alongside us while you peer into our journey.
Rhonda thanksforprayingfor#danielkickscancer ellis