Today, as I have for 7 weeks prior (and will for 14 more), I took the familiar elevator ride to the 4th floor. I’m usually alone because we are always pushing the time so Scott drops me off and then parks the car. I exited and came into the familiar check in line. Maybe it’s because I’m alone or because this place has become familiar or maybe because the Lord always meets me here, but I tend to find myself emotional in the check in line every week. I look around and see lots of bald heads, wigs, and hats. And I can tell from quite a distance who’s new. Today it was a well coiffed couple and both had all their hair:) I assumed she was my cancer comrade but as I waited in line they called him for bloodwork – I pegged the wrong patient. But it was obvious they were newbies. I remember our first trip to this main lobby for Baylors cancer center and it was obvious a lot of folk were regulars – and we were clueless. Now, we’re regulars. I decided to give y’all a tour of our day with pictures. So the first pic is of the view from the elevator lobby walking into the 4th floor check in and waiting area. To the right is the check in desk. The woman standing w back to picture is in line. So that’s where I stand every week for sweet Michelle or Tammy to greet me, bless me, and check me in. In the far background toward the windows are the bloodwork stations.
After checking in, I sat down to wait for bloodwork. It was at this point that I began reflecting on something that we’ve observed countless times. Cancer doesn’t discriminate. We always notice that the waiting room includes affluent, indigent, white, black, Hispanic, and Asian. Last week, I got emotional talking to a woman who has a recurrence of ovarian cancer and she could barely speak English. I had tons of compassion – to the point of tears (which I think confused her) and all I could do was sign-language that I would pray for her. She responded with a head bow and thank you before I was whisked away for bloodwork. So, the next picture included is us in the 4th floor waiting room awaiting my call for bloodwork. This is on the left side in chairs seen in first picture.
By the way I’ll admit I’m loving my last
minute picture tour idea but really wishing I wasn’t having to write the accompanying verbiage on my phone via thumbs. Grace for typos requested:)
So where were we?! Back to bloodwork…
After a few minute wait, I am called for bloodwork. Every week they make sure I’m healthy enough to continue. So far so good. And here’s me in the station and the needle. If you don’t like blood/needles then skim quickly below.
I had to include Frances and Betty in my bloodwork photo tour. There are probably half dozen stations all staffed by crazy compassionate people. They hire for compassion and it’s amazing. But these 2 women have neighboring stations and they are besties of the highest order. Been working together for 20 (or maybe it’s 25?) years. Not all of those here at Baylor but think at least 10 here together. And heres my favorite part. They wear matchy matchy uniforms every day. Betty (on right) texts Frances every morning and tells her what to wear. One day they were slightly off in color of pants. And that’s because Frances said it was dark when she pulled them and then by the time she realized it, she’d already ironed them so one was in purple and the other in dark navy. Seriously?! How cute are they?! They are a bright spot in every Wednesday.
So after bloodwork it’s down to 3rd floor for infusion. Another pic here from lobby into waiting room (though picture only picked up right half). We check in on right again and the red hat to the right is Scott in today’s seats. The open door in the back is into the infusion room. And fitting with comments about cancer’s non discrimination policy, it was accidental but notice that the person going in is in a wheelchair. The receptionist was busy when we got there so Scott went back to give them my name. Jennifer Lewis?! Yes he tried to check in Jennifer LEWIS. The girls behind the desk had a good laugh when he corrected himself and explained.
While he checked me in, I was having my weekly meeting with Angelique (picture included). She’s the research coordinating nurse so follows my progress on MM-121 (research drug) and asks every week about any new side effects. It’s also her fault that I have to be weighed most weeks. Though I’m off the hook for weigh ins and vitals last week and this week for some reason per research drug protocol.
Now back to the waiting room…
As we came in I noticed a girl I’d picked out 3 weeks ago because she was young and looked like my peeps – shes on the left side of waiting area that you cant see. When I saw her before, she had on a shirt when I first saw her that I LOVED: ‘Yes they’re fake. My real ones tried to kill me.’ I mean is that not greatness?! I defintely want one if I get new girls too! She was also wearing a fabulous LV scarf tied differently than I’d seen and that inspired me to another bald-head-covering-idea using a large square scarf. So, today, I ventured across the otherwise very sober and quiet waiting room to meet her – and her mom. Another picture. This is Doreen and Rally. And her mom is from Israel so you know that was a bonus for me. It was fun hearing Doreen’s story. Similar to me, diagnosed at 38 without any family history or the BRCA gene. She has 2 boys, 11 and 3, and one is special needs. Wow. She had a much smaller tumor and not in lymph nodes so she has a different treatment plan. She’s already had surgery and only 4 rounds of chemo (including a drug Ill also have which causes faster hair loss – mine is still a slower fade but definitely on its way out) so today is her last day. Yea for Doreen! And for her fabulous new girls. No need for a lift if cancer gives us a do-over.
So I continue to wait (and write) while Doreen has been called back. Scott thinks at this point that they’ve passed us up. Or maybe there’s just no Jennifer Lewis slated for infusion today?!
Today, our wait was about an hour and then into big infusion room. The pic below is from one end of one half. There’s another long section that mirrors this one on the other side of the nurses stations. Today we’re on the windows side which I prefer. In the pic you can see Scott sitting next to my chair in the second section of chairs. On this side, there are 5 areas of 8 chemo chairs. Noone is yet in my section today. And unfortunately Doreen doesn’t seem to be on my side. I’d have enjoyed saying goodbye to her. Though, in this crazy social media world she has already friended me on FB. After we met she came back over to confirm spelling and found me as we stood there. So I look forward to keeping in touch with Doreen. Speaking of keeping in touch I’ve realized that one of sweetest blessings of cancer is re connecting and connecting with friends. One of my dearest old Arthur Andersen friends came to see me a couple of weeks ago while she was in town and regularly sends email or text love. She also sent Quel Que Fleur – both of our favorite perfumes (but not Scott’s so he’s asked me to at least consider only wearing every other day – but I haven’t yet conceded). And through Julie, I reconnected this week with another Andersen co worker who is also a breast cancer patient herself. Lastly, on the side bar commentary on pink reconnects … Today, Linc is with my friend Louise and her 2 daughters who were über excited for a baby brother for the day. Louise and I have been friends for years – back to an amazing Precepts Bible study 15 years with our beloved Candy Hill. Now, 2 husbands and 3 kids later we are reconnected because of cancer. And I’m thankful. Thankful for friends – new (like Doreen) and old (like Julie from 1995). And near and far. And those who bring meals or do laundry. And those who pray and those who write (like Melissa with weekly notes and Lane coordinating cards for chemo days). And several who faithfully help me day to day – like Gigi who comes every Wednesday after work to hang with Linc since I am semi-comatose until about 6pm.
Back to the infusion room and photo tour…
Today, I forgot to put on the numbing cream Travis gave me (needs an hour to do its thing) so the poke was a little less fun (though I’m thankful for cold spray which at least deadens the first layer of skin). So the last pic is me in my chair with Theresita setting up shop with needles and drugs. And here’s where I’ll spend the next couple of hours.
As I’ve written this, I’ve received several texts of prayers and love. And am thankful for many of y’all who especially think of us on Wednesdays. You’re a blessing. And now, hopefully, when you think of us you can erase those pictures of your imagination and replace them with the real deal.
With love and thanks,
Jen Lewis – err, make that Clouse:)
Oh and on the marriage note, we DID get an anniversary redo. On Sunday night the Washingtons kept Linc and we went to The Porch where we had our first date in September of 2007. Lots to thank the Lord for between then and now – including the gifts from cancer of your friendship, prayers, and encouragement in word and deed.
Off I go to my happy place…