There are rows of chairs, eight in mine, each a shiny, coated plastic, some pea green, others muted red. They’re trying to be easy chairs; that’s it. A source of relaxation, calm. They want to be watching TV; maybe a “Seinfeld” rerun or “Punk’d” with Ashton Kutcher. Yet they’re outfitted with trays and wheels and towels dangling from the back rack. They’re uneasy chairs.
Heat warms my right arm, the “good” arm, my IV arm — the nurse is forever trying to find the vein. “You’re a bit of a pincushion, aren’t you?” we joke, punctuating the sting of her inevitable third try at the IV.
It works, finally.
As I’m pumped full of venofer, or iron sucrose, for the first time, I think of the boxes I left unchecked on the waiting room clipboard — and those who checked them. Boxes for radiation and chemo and other illnesses I’m thankful I don’t have. I want to ask the story of the patients near me, almost wishing we could sit in a perverse sort of sick circle and chat about IVs and appointments and veins. Or maybe just life; families and sports and jobs and restaurants and vacations and cities and where to find the best strawberry ice cream.
Dizziness hits almost instantly. I feel like I’ve had a couple of drinks, maybe a gin and tonic or two. A volunteer walks around the room with snacks and sweets; it’s like trick-or-treating but with IV ports and painfully beige privacy curtains. I can’t eat the snacks per my celiac status, but I take one anyway; I’ll offer it to a coworker when I get back to the office.
“You don’t have a port,” the magical snack fairy says as she offers the basket of animal cookies and chocolate pudding. I am again reminded of where I am, at then oncology and hematology center, land of bad blood.