Copyright © 1999, Douglas R. Murray
I was suddenly sad this morning when Donna appeared in the doorway. Her bright red top covered an 8-month pregnancy. I hadn't seen her in two months, but how could I have missed this condition the last time? She appeared radiant, as they say, and was the perfect vision of a healthy happy mother-to-be. So why was I sad?
Donna has been part of my oncology team for the last year. She weighed me in each visit, took my blood pressure and carried a warm smile in my transition from the waiting room to the exam room. She was there when I was told this lymphoma was stage 4 and that it was, most likely, here to stay.
The strongest memory of Donna was her role during a bone marrow biopsy. A good-sized needle is inserted into the large pelvic bone and marrow is extracted while you lie face down. It is an uncomfortable procedure, and for me it was especially frightening because I remembered my Mom having one 10 years earlier.
The doctor began injecting a local anesthetic and at the same time Donna gently placed her hands on my back. I no longer felt alone, or afraid. As the procedure progressed she gave me a back rub and felt like my emotional ally. When it was over I looked at her with tears in my eyes and asked, "Do you know how important that was for me?" She tried briefly to explain that it was something they usually do, but I persisted, "That was very powerful, it really helped me, thank you."
I don't know if Donna ever understood what I meant. My medical treatment had been very mechanical and sterile, while at the same time frightening. But for a few minutes, the caring touch of another person became the most powerful drug available.
So why was I sad when I saw Donna pregnant? I think it may have been the juxtaposition in our lives and current situation. Donna was creating life in an oncology unit where all of us were fighting to keep ours. She and I were both looking forward to raising a child to adulthood, but chemotherapy and, hopefully, a long remission were in front of me first. I wish I could rejoin her world where the prospect of death is remote and bringing forth life is the essence.
Editor's Note: See also Douglas R. Murray'sSurvivor Story "Lessons from Lymphoma."