The day we all dreaded had finally arrived, the first session of chemotherapy. Louise was scheduled in for Friday 5th December 2008 at 1.00pm. I went with her. We were both so incredibly nervous.
I was a little surprised at how matter of fact the chemo session was. First we were herded into a little room with seats all around the outer edges and a number of drips ominously standing there waiting for their next victim. I scanned the faces of everyone else sitting there waiting for their chemo and tried to figure out who had cancer and who was there to support their loved one. I couldn’t. They all looked healthy enough to me.
One by one the nurse came round and hooked the cancer patient up to the chemo drip. Voices were low and there was much whispering punctuated by heavy silences. Then it was Louise’s turn. I don’t know how but she managed to crack a joke as the nurse quietly explained how poisonous the chemo was and what would happen if any were to accidentally spill out onto the skin. I felt sick. Louise seemed to be fine. First she was given a drip full of anti sickness fluid and then the chemo was slowly fed in. The whole session took about an hour.
During that hour after the initial hooking up by the nurse, the atmosphere relaxed. Some were eating chocolate and drinking hot drinks from the vending machine or water, I was kind of surprised about that. It seemed more like a subdued coffee morning than a chemotherapy session. People chatted about their holidays, kids, shopping, house renovations, and indulged in all manner of mundane small talk. It seemed that at first everyone avoided the obvious, why they were there on a Friday afternoon in the run up to Christmas. It was all so surreal. Then it was over and we got in the car and drove away.
Although Louise had been unbelievably brave at the hospital, I knew it had been quite an ordeal because as soon as we got home she took herself off to bed and cried. She stayed there tucked up under the duvet until the following day.
Christmas day that year was no ordinary Christmas I can tell you. We decided that the whole family should be together so there we were all 17 of us squashed round a table pulling crackers and eating turkey. Now you would think the occasion would have been pretty sombre as we were all worried sick about Louise but it actually wasn’t.
We laughed and we cried, but we laughed more. There’s something quite odd about laughing when you’re hurting inside, it takes on a sort of desperate feel. The laughter comes fairly easily but it is all too often followed by a sudden gulp of air and then the sobbing starts, then the laughter manages to squeeze itself out through the gasping and gurgling and escape into the ethos where it invariably ignites someone else’s tears and laughter and so it goes on, it’s very contagious, I wonder if it’s madness?