We have been floating, floating in a cloud of unreality that came to an end Tuesday morning when Jim had his first chemo treatment. My sister Kathy went with him to Dr. Menini’s office. All morning I could hardly stand to think about Jim walking back to the “infusion” room, getting the IV set up, then knowing that at a certain point, the first drops of the drug were entering his veins. I kept starting to cry–I always tell Jim that life is too hard for most people, an idea he has laughed at, but I think the little kid in each of us gets really scared at things like entering the infusion room. He came back with a pump in the port, and wearing a fanny pack that contained the second chemo drug. The pump made a soft sound almost like an owl’s hoot. That afternoon Jim seemed okay, but I think he was in shock. At work the next day, the full effect of the chemo slammed him. When he came home that evening, he flopped down in an armchair like a polar bear who had been swimming the dark North Sea for a long time, and finally had found an ice floe to crawl up onto. He was exhausted. I made chamomile tea and buttered toast for him, and gave him a foot massage. As though from a long way away I heard him say, “What luxury.”
The next day we went back to Dr. Menini’s to have the pump removed (it stays in for two days). I felt strange walking back with Jim to the infusion room, with the reluctance of a living person being escorted into Hades. It was a long room lined with beige recliners, with a nurses’s station at one end. One man with an ashen face lay looking like he was already dead, but another quite young man, wearing a turban, sat reading the paper like it was the most normal thing in the world. Most noticeable was the complete lack of conversation. No one wanted to be here. The nurse removed the port quickly, and we walked back out through the grey waiting room, and down the grey hallway to the elevator. It was a bitter cold day. Jim said, “Now I really feel like a cancer patient.” To me, and to friends and family, he is Jim, first and foremost, and in the coming days I will keep reminding him of this. I woke up the next morning, and still thanked God for this most amazing day.