Friday, December 2, 2016

Cancer

Today I went in for a CT scan. After a couple hours of waiting, a bottle of oral contrast, some drawings in my sketchbook and the scan itself, I found myself seated for post-scan observation around 4 before the nurses could remove my IV and send me along my way for the day. A nurse handed me a menu of snacks I could request since I'd been fasting for practically the whole day (I ended up asking for applesauce chips).

In the adjacent seat was a middle-aged gentleman, who was also under observation waiting for IV removal. He had black hair with liberal flecks of grey and wore a coat and a black scarf. He had a friendly demeanour and seemed upbeat, and we ended up striking a conversation. We chatted about unremarkable things and then I asked what he was in for.

He was battling Stage 4 lung cancer. It's hard to force myself to recollect and relive our conversation, let alone type it out now. It hit me like a ton of bricks. It brought me back to the underworld, the twilight of reality swathed in pain and suffering, that lurks in the periphery of the nearest darkness yet so easily forgotten, seemingly from another life. The contrast between his impeccable outward presentation and the weight of those words, caused the crashing of my comfortable normality to be especially thunderous and left me speechless in shock. All the happiness in the world evaporated.

He told me he had got a lung tumor operated 6 years ago but it was back now, and did not respond to chemo. He was on an experimental drug since summer. I told him he looked great and seemed fine. He told me he was glad to have got 6 years. He has a wife and kids. He told me he has been getting things "in order". He hoped he would get more time.

We talked some more and I told him that I had had lymphoma. He told me I was young and asked me that it was more curable, no? The nurse came to remove his IV. I said I hoped he would grow old, wished him the best of luck, and he was gone.

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