As I stepped through the door, I remembered.
A single pale face looked up at me from the bench by the door, worry lines drawn from his forehead clear across his scalp. Another man next to him bent over, staring at his shoes, oblivious to the drama unfolding further in, where tension swirled round in a cloud of worry and mothers and fathers were transformed into patients and caregivers. Where a young woman sat, quietly, hands folded in her lap, patiently waiting to hear what the next six months would hold. A grandmother sat with her knitting, paused as if time had stopped while she waited to hear if she would be next. Older women in wheelchairs and old men with oxygen tanks shared space with a pair of thin Asian women and an outspoken Baba, asking everyone where the nurse was and why she hadn’t been seen yet. She had been there for over an hour, you know, she reminded her neighbors, she was there when they arrived, remember? And everyone else had been called, and yet there she sat.
There they all sat, waiting to be called, to learn their fate.
I dutifully took my seat, between a swollen woman in a bright purple
bandana and a gaunt girl-child wrapped in her grandmother’s shawl. I
too had been swollen, been weak, been bald, and been pricked so full
of holes they couldn’t find a vein. I too had been afraid, uncertain,
determined, and fierce as I fought my own body, and the traitorous tumor that formed within me. I too had been quiet, and then loud, shouting from the rooftops, “Life does not end with the diagnosis!” I too wondered if perhaps my protestations were not enough. For life would never be the same, not really.
The nurse called my name. I stood up, quickly and with embarrassing
ease, to be seen by the oncologist. But as I passed my comrades-in-arms, these wounded warriors, I remembered.