At first glance, she stands empty, dark, and devoid of any life. There is a couple looking in at her, wide-eyed, brows furrowed, with questions left unasked. She waits quietly, knowing that she will soon play a large part in this couple’s lives. She knows that her reputation is frightening. What she stands for is as suffocating as being caught underneath a raft and being unable to find the surface of the water. However, she also knows that for many people, she is the difference between life and death.
The next day, she stands ready. Shiny IV stands are set in each workstation. Pillows and blankets are placed on each green vinyl recliner. Counters are clean, except for the medical files of the patients; blue scrubs are ready for the nurses to don. On the light peach colored walls are pictures of the beach with water so blue it beckons the observer to jump in. Her nurses are bubbly like champagne on New Years Eve; her lab technicians are as entertaining as the late Bernie Mac. Everything is in order and awaits the people that will sit in one of her honorary positions. She is now ready for a new day just as the first patients are called back.
She may be a chemotherapy room, but dark is no longer her prominent image. An eclectic mix of upbeat music playing from her speakers greets patients as they are called back and seated in one of her recliners. Although the lights are turned off, a large picture window covers one wall and beautiful sunlight streams in leaving bands of light across the floor. Crackers, cookies, chips and pretzels are placed in baskets on her counters. Her refrigerators are stocked with bottles of juice, ginger ale, and water for anyone that may want or need to maintain strength or fight off the nausea that is prevalent in so many of her visitors.
She is no longer empty. Her chairs are now filled with patients who are allowing poison into their bodies while praying that it will destroy any cancer that is in them. Nurses suit up from head to toe in heavy blue scrubs to protect them from the toxicity of the chemotherapy drugs that they are pushing into their patient’s bodies or hanging on an IV hook. The smell of alcohol haunts the air like a menacing ghost that does not want habitants around. It is so nauseating that tears well in one’s eyes as the urge to bolt from the chair grows. The patient takes a deep breath as her husband holds her hand. The nurse pushes the needle for the IV into the woman’s chest.
No, she is no longer empty. She is now filled with hope. Patients who haven’t seen each other in days or weeks take this time to catch up with one another and share words of inspiration. For the patient who is new and scared, there is the seasoned warrior ready to take them under their wing. For the battered warrior who is getting weary from their battle, there is the warrior with unwavering faith, lending their strength to help them through the storm. These sisters and brothers are all willing to give their love and open their hearts to anyone that makes the decision to come inside the room. It is within her that this camaraderie is formed. It is within her that some lives will be decided.
She is no longer devoid of life. Each green recliner and visitor’s chair face to the middle of the room. The people in the chairs all share lively conversations about children, work, sports and bucket lists to be fulfilled when chemo is done. Everyone in this room shares stories of good times that leave each person laughing and troubles forgotten if just for a few minutes. The walls cannot hold back the dreams that will one day be filled by the patients who graced the room.
As the day moves on, the room begins to darken. A hush falls over her as the sun goes down. Is the room losing her life energy? No, for those who have spent the whole day in the chairs, the poison has started to wear down the body. She knows this, which is why she has one more trick up her sleeve.
There is a clicking noise coming up the hall, and in the room walks a sandy colored golden retriever. The dog scans the room and walks up to the green chair and lays its head in the lap of the woman sitting in it. The woman, with her eyes closed strokes the dog’s head. Life is still flowing in this room, just gentler, quieter, and more peaceful. This room seems to always be prepared. When it’s cold, blankets are pulled from her cabinets. When patients are sleepy, her chairs are reclined and extra pillows are added.
Yes, at first glance, she stands empty, dark and devoid of life. However, once a patient enters, she stands for so much more. She stands for every cancer patient that has made the decision to walk through her doors and sit in her green recliner. She stands for hope. Hope for a cure. Hope for another chance. Hope for a miracle.