There’s a public restroom, in the waiting area of the Outpatient Chemo Clinic at Mercy. There are several bathrooms in the back treatment area as well, available for patient use when we are there. They’re definitely more sterile and sanitary, than the one that anybody from off the street can use. Often times though, one chemo patient or another would be throwing up in that waiting area bathroom, since chemo-induced nausea can strike without warning. Occasionally, that somebody was me. Getting back through the locked door of the treatment area, and around the bend took precious seconds. Once, I was waiting to go in for an appointment, listening to a woman I’d crossed paths with many times before, wretching in that waiting area bathroom. I’d seen her go in. I knew the hunched over, shuffling gait, the full-body grimace, the groan. I knew what was coming. I’d been there, too. We all had. In my drugged out stupor, I raised my eyes and dragged them over the bodies of the other “zombies” sitting around me. Nobody so much as looked up. This occurrence was perfectly normal, in the shadowy underworld we were inhabiting. Maybe not reacting was the one way we felt we could respect her privacy, in a moment where she was stripped of every ounce of dignity that she had.
I think about that woman, still. We were in combat together. I have no idea if she’s even alive anymore.