That Elusive Cure 19
By lisa h
Thursday was a chemo day. I woke up apprehensive, a part of me trying to convince the rest of me that I didn’t need to go. But there was no chance of giving up traditional treatment. That would be just stupid. For a brief moment I thought about ringing up the hospital and saying I’d had a really hard time with the side effects and I needed a week off. This was the last session before the next break between courses of chemotherapy. That meant in less than two weeks I’d get a CT scan or an MRI, depending on what the doctor wanted. Then I would find out the truth, find out if Janie was right or if I was a fool.
I wanted the drive to Clatterbridge to be silent. I wanted to be left alone with my thoughts. But Jimmy prattled on beside me, hardly pausing for breath. He’d spent the early morning researching medical machinery and trying to find similarities between what already existed and what he’d seen inside the pod. Turns out he’d taken pictures on his phone for reference.
The key to the church was hidden safely away, or so I hoped. I’d hidden it at the bottom of a box of tampons. Not that I needed them anymore. The medicines long ago put paid to my fertility. I hoped when Jimmy went searching, and I knew he would, that he wouldn’t think to look there.
My phone beeped. I’d been sat with my head tilted away from Jimmy. He didn’t even realise I wasn’t listening. I’d been watching the trees whip past the window as we drove along the motorway. I glanced at the screen. Janie had messaged me.
Are you going to get your chemo today?
I wondered how close she came to jacking it all in when she was getting treatment at the hospital and visiting the pod within days of each other.
I am, heading there now.
“…I found a picture of a new style scanner they are developing in Massachusetts at some hospital there.” Jimmy looked more animated and happy than I had seen him in ages. “The mechanisms in that are remarkably similar to the ones in the MicroHealth machine maybe…”
I tuned Jimmy out again as my phone beeped. Janie had responded.
I kept going as well. No point risking buggering up the chemo, just in case. That’s what I figured. Belts and braces, lol.
Jimmy pulled off the motorway and onto the exit ramp, still talking away. “…They are also developing nano technology with some success. I can’t find pictures of how they’re making that happen, I’m guessing they’ve got the designs under lock and key…”
I keyed in a reply. Feels strange coming in. Like an exercise in futility. I suppose it can’t hurt, but I have to admit I feel so well. Over the last year I’d started to feel like a proper cancer patient. I realised this morning that I’m not thinking like that anymore.
Jimmy drove into the hospital complex and up to the guard’s hut. He wound the window down. “Bringing her in for treatment,” he said to the guard.
The gate lifted and we drove in. Last day of treatment? Last day of burning veins? Last day of sickness and a long list of side effects that came hand-in-hand with the medicines? Butterflies erupted in my belly and I realised just how much I was desperate for this elusive cure.
Be real, I thought, picturing the pod and the sinky foam mattress, the warm feeling in my guts as the machine did whatever it did when it worked. Be real.
As usual there were a few people milling about near the entrance to the oncology ward. I couldn’t figure them out. Patients wheeled out their drips out with them, dressed in pyjamas and dressing gowns, or pushed out by enablers in wheelchairs, all so they could have a frigging smoke. Most of them were gaunt, end stage patients, their skin as grey as the ash on their cigarette, cheekbones sticking out as they inhaled. And they made me so angry.
I wanted to go up to each of them, give them a shake and shout, “Do you think this helps?” If I could do something to make my bowel cancer better, increase my odds, I’d do it in a heartbeat. If I’d been a smoker I’d have given it up the day I was diagnosed. I’d given up sugar, processed foods, wheat, dairy, and the sweetest fruits. Virtually everything that passed my lips was organic. It had got to the point where it seemed there was little I could eat. Did I like doing this? Absolutely not. I was sick of not eating like a normal person. I missed ice cream and cakes and chocolate and bread and scones and a hundred other things. But I avoided them for a reason, for the slight chance, the possibility, the maybe that eliminating them might increase my odds.
The smokers made me so angry, yet I tried my best to hide it as I walked past.
“You’re so bloody judgemental,” Jimmy said once we were inside.
I flashed him my disapproving look and stalked off towards the stairs. I ascended fast, realising on the half landing that my knees weren’t hurting in the slightest. I forgot my irritation at Jimmy and turned to him, smiling.
“The pain’s gone.”
“The ache in my joints that the steroids give me. It’s all gone.” The grin was stretching across my face. I strode into the waiting room, looking far too happy to be there, and reported in at the reception desk.
“Are you seeing the doctor today?” The receptionist asked.
“Nope, I don’t think so, but it’s my last treatment.” I glanced at Jimmy and added, “For now.” I shouldn’t play with the fates and jinx things before I knew I was being fixed for certain.
The wait was as long as ever. For over an hour we waited. Jimmy kept his mouth shut, even though I could see he was itching to talk about the gubbins of the pod and instead spent the time surfing the web on his phone. No doubt researching about nano technology some more.
Me, I spent the hour people watching. I knew what I was doing. I was choosing who I would send to the machine once I had been fixed.
“Kathy Wyatt.” A nurse came out calling my name.
“One more time?” I asked Jimmy quietly.
He shrugged. “Who knows. But I’m beginning to have faith.”
Jimmy? Finding the faith? Maybe it was time to believe just a little bit.
The nurse showed me through to Bay 3, the littlest one with only three treatment chairs. Jimmy pulled up a seat and sat next to me while the nurse busied herself with checking my medicines.
“Can you take these, please.” Julie placed a small paper cup with seven pills in the bottom and went to get some water for me. I poked the pills, not entirely sure what they were, and realising I’d never bothered to ask. I thought two small round white ones were steroids and the others were a couple of different types of anti-sickness. But like I said, I wasn’t really sure.
“Can you confirm name and date of birth?”
I repeated these several times as she went through the bags of IV solution for today and packets of pills for the next nine days, doing the last check before hooking me up. Then it was time, the part I hated the most, the needle in the back of the hand. You’d think I’d be used to them by now. Two years of being poked by people. I had dimpled scars from needles in the crooks of my arms and the backs of my hands. I watched as she prepared everything and looked away as she got ready to pierce my skin.
“Ouch,” I said, my body stiffening, but somehow keeping my hand perfectly still. It was a practiced expression of pain.
“I’m just going to give it a flush through, and then we’re all set to begin.”
Nurse Julie walked off, letting the flush run. And all I could think was: the pod doesn’t hurt.