I spend the few hours before I’m discharged from the hospital after one of my 5-6 day stays packing up my room. Sometimes to the sultry sound of the Beach Boys.
I start in the bathroom, Scooter as ever in tow, gathering up bottles of soap and lotion, lavender essential oil and vitamin e oil (helps with scarring), lip treatment, toothpaste and deodorant. All piles into a small bag, which goes into a bigger bag, which stays in the closet until the next round.
I move on to the clothing, gathering smelly sweaty hospital clothes into another bag. Then toys, framed pictures, and chargers. All into the “big” hospital bag.
Then I turn to the bed. Here I pack up my two down pillows, my soft blanket, and my two stuffed lion cubs into a duffel bag. I switch from my slippers to shoes, put my slippers on top, and then sit on the bag to close it. This one will go on top of the “big” bag in the closet.
By this point, my final bag of tang is usually done, and my nurse has hung the premeds (Zofran) for the hour-long infusion of Cyclophosphamide.
I then turn to my backpack and pack up my computer, book and DVDs of the week. Then I sit and look around at my denuded room. Sometimes I take the industrial cleaning wipes and start to clean, because I’m like that, but lately I’ve just sat, quietly waiting for the last bag of chemo to complete.
This most recent round, my last, I was due to finish around 1pm, so Michael showed up around noon with lunch and a palpable air of excitement. I took one look at him and burst into tears in his arms. Relief at being done. Grateful for him and his unfailing support. Grateful to my doctor and the nurses who had gotten me to this point. Grateful for support from my parents and sister and cousins and friends who I knew would step up. Grateful for support from unlikely places: new friends, old friends who are far away but came anyway, random friends, friends of friends. Grateful that my body is strong and handled the chemo incredibly well. Grateful to be lucky enough to be the one leaving the hospital that day; walking out under my own strength and power (such as it is at the moment) when there were three floors of oncology patients who might or can’t yet or might not ever. Grateful to know that my strength will come back. Grateful to know that even though there is a long path in front of me I have been changed but not altered. As he always does, he simply held me and let my tears flow until they stopped. Then he gave me a kiss, and we sat down to our Potbelly sandwiches.
Once the last bag was drained into my veins, my nurse unhooked me and deaccessed my port (“band-aids or gauze?” “band-aids please. I’m taking a bath the second I get home.”). I give her a hug (“don’t take this personally, but I really hope to never see you again.” She laughs and agrees.). I put on my backpack, and then the duffel bag over it, Michael hitched the huge bag onto his shoulder, and we left. That’s it. No parade, no soundtrack, no dancing bears or announcements. We just left.
However, I floated. Down the hall, into the elevator, and out of the hospital. Floated. Because I’m so relieved to be done with chemo. And so grateful to be done with chemo. I didn’t even mind that I was walking even slower, and my breath was harder, and the distance from the hospital to our apartment seemed much longer. I’m done.