the gentle hearts will help us heal in the end


A painting given to my daughter, a gentle soul who is entering her third year of nursing school.

It is a commonly held notion that patients will only give feedback when care is either very bad or very good. Those who have ordinary experiences do not usually take the time to write a letter or fill out a comment card.  I’d like to commit to speaking up when things go well, as well as when they go poorly.  Here’s my story of a perfectly ordinary appointment.

Today I had time booked with a radiation oncologist at the cancer centre.  I think appointments with oncologists strike fear into most people.  It must be a strange job to be an oncologist and have people show up in your office terrified to see you.

This was my first time back at the cancer centre since my last day of treatment.  On the drive there, I was an anxious mess.  I drove as fast as I could in bumper-to-bumper Vancouver traffic and loudly played a Tragically Hip live album on the car stereo to give me some moxie.

Courage, my word
It didn’t come, it doesn’t matter
Courage, it couldn’t come at a worse time

My regular radiation oncologist was on holidays, so I was booked into see someone new.  I woke up this morning awash with anxiety thinking about this new doctor. What if he wasn’t kind? And yet another new person looking at my poor boob and this time a man to boot? Great. I might as well be marching through the cancer centre with no shirt on with the amount of dignity I have left.  I had to go to the appointment by myself, as my husband had to remain at home to look after our son. Being alone never helps my monkey brain either.

I eyed my bottle of Ativan before I left. Isn’t it ironic that the main reason I pop anti-anxiety pills is when I have an appointment at the hospital? I decided instead of taking a pill to park a few blocks away from the cancer centre and walk to see if the trek would help settle me down (it did).

I hiked through the leafy residential neighbourhoods, grabbed an iced coffee and snuck in the back through the parkade elevator. The sight of all the people with cancer waiting in the lobby always makes me sad. In fact, the whole building makes me sad. It isn’t my favourite place to go.

I dutifully checked in with the receptionist, who was pleasant enough, and sat down for about three minutes before my name was called. I have to say that the radiation folks are all very efficient – there’s very little waiting in that department. The nurse (I think?) who fetched me asked how I was doing. She didn’t share her name or her role and I didn’t have the energy to ask. We chatted a bit about burned boobs and fatigue and she left me alone in the room to change into a gown. The radiation oncologist knocked and came in a few minutes later.

He was a young physician with a gentle manner. He introduced himself and shook my hand.  He sat down in the chair while I was perched on the treatment table. I knew this was my last radiation oncology appointment and so I had my notebook with my list of questions for him.

In total, he spent almost half an hour with me. He never appeared rushed or glanced at the clock. He was both professional and friendly. He smiled and made eye contact. Except for my physical exam, he remained seated and clearly answered all my questions. It reminded me how important communication is for physicians. It must be challenging to read a patient when they first meet them to figure out how to talk to them like they aren’t stupid, but in a way they understand. Translating recurrence rates, statistics and risk factors into layperson terms takes talent and skill.

He wasn’t rushed and didn’t seem to try to be wrapping the appointment up in any way. I never felt as if I was intruding on his time. He was there for me for the entire half an hour. He said a number of times – if you ever want to come back and see us, just give us a call. He shook my hand again when he got up to leave.

I walked back to my car feeling calm and relaxed. I felt as if I was taken care of, mostly because of how this young physician behaved and not what he did. His friendly, calm, unrushed manner turned what could have been a stressful and upsetting oncology appointment into a perfectly fine oncology appointment.

I assert that the so-called bedside manner matters a lot. While our interaction might have been just an ordinary appointment, it meant much more than that to me. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: it is these little things – a handshake, a smile, patience, eye contact, a calm manner – that mean a lot to us vulnerable, broken patients, every single time.

Medicine might cure (sometimes), it doesn’t always heal. This oncologist was not only a specialist, smart and brimming with lots of medical knowledge, but he was a healer too. And right now, I mostly need to heal.

Cheers to all the healers out there, who comfort and alleviate suffering just by holding space for their patients. Holding space is the ultimate demonstration of respect for patients.  I strongly believe that it is these gentle hearts who will help us heal in the end.

once i ate a doughnut

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the doughnut in question

It was your shitty lifestyle that gave you cancer, and if you don’t change your shitty lifestyle, your cancer will recur.

This was the key message to a two-day workshop for cancer patients that I attended last week. Half way through day two, I stood up and walked out. If my time here on Earth is limited, I don’t need to spend my days being lectured to about this kind of sanctimonious crap.

Instead, I went for a long walk, met my husband for a lunch (I had a salad, just for the record, since I’m feeling defensive now), went for another long walk along the beautiful Vancouver seawall and met up with a dear friend for tea. This seemed like a healthier way to spend my time.

I signed up for the workshop for my Summer of Healing after my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment this year.  I thought: I’ll show up and be open to learning. I lasted a day and a half before the blaming, finger pointing and judgmental tone of the lectures from the ‘experts’ did me in.

The room was filled with people with cancer who had lived healthy lifestyles. I’d call this the classic west coast way of life – in this case, there were many fit, nutrition-conscious women who happened to have breast cancer. (And they were pretty pissed off about it, too). There were also three young people whose cancer had recurred.

The presenters did not understand their audience. I’m not sure how blaming people with cancer for getting cancer in the first place is helpful. Patients do not need more fodder to add to our own feelings of guilt.   We are also not stupid.  We know that being active and eating healthy is important.  No kidding.

Even if I smoked, drank, was obese, ate too many doughnuts, warmed up my food in plastic containers in the microwave, does this mean that I deserved to get cancer or that I am less deserving of care or compassion for my cancer?

The ‘it is your own fault you got sick’ mentality is what is feeding the repeal of Obamacare in the US with the BCRA Act. I follow this awful Act carefully on Twitter and feel deeply outraged for my American friends. We’d be so hooped if we lived just a few kilometers to the south in the US – my husband and I are both self-employed, we have a kid with a disability and now I have cancer.  We’d also be bankrupt if we didn’t have proper insurance coverage.

This patient-blaming attitude is pervasive everywhere, including in Canada. (Although I’m extremely grateful for our Medicare, which is our quasi-universal health care coverage for hospital and physician office care. This means I don’t have to pay for my medical care because I got sick).

“Maybe you will live a healthier lifestyle afterwards,” a friend said to me on the phone, not so helpfully, when I was first diagnosed. I was lying on the couch recovering from surgery. This implied blame is thankfully mostly unspoken, but was the overt attitude at this ‘cancer care’ workshop.

The truth: cancer is a combination of genetics, bad luck, rogue cells – and yes, environment and lifestyle are factors too. But there is no one cause of all cancers – cancer is much more insidious than that. Our own cells turn feral on us for all sorts of reasons. If researchers knew what that reason really was, we would already have a cure for cancer. You can’t prevent cancer by doing any one thing.  (Read about a recent study from John Hopkins about the topic of risk factors here).

The real reason I think people are blamed for getting cancer is because we are all terrified of becoming vulnerable, needing help and dying. We think that we can do all sorts of things to avoid death.  Alas, there is a randomness to living that is out of our control. There was a 1 in 700 chance I’d have a kid with Down syndrome, but I had him anyhow. (Many feel my son’s birth could have been prevented, but that’s for another blog post). The current stat is that 1 in 9 women in Canada get breast cancer. I happen to be one of those women.

I know I have lived through many women’s biggest fear. Once you start with the boob-squishing mammograms, the idea that you might have breast cancer begins floating around in your mind. I thought I was immune from breast cancer because I breastfed all my children. That was an arrogant, naïve and mistaken notion.

I’m not suggesting you don’t live a healthy life, whatever that means to you. That would just be silly. But…stop the patient blaming when people do get sick. None of us are going to escape this world without acquiring some sort of illness and eventually dying. This is part of life.

My healthy lifestyle changes since getting cancer include: holding those who showed up for me close, more hugging, going to therapy to finally figure out how to love myself, meandering on long walks, marvelling at sunsets and remembering to breathe.  I still eat cheese, lie around in my bed watching Netflix and enjoy a tall glass of cider. Everything in moderation, folks. My best advice is to go forth and live your life under the guise of joy and not fear.

Cancer workshop organizers, shaming patients is not going to lead to behaviour change. (See this great post by Carolyn Thomas about ‘non-compliant’ patients).  Being perfect does not prevent cancer.  Try treating those who are suffering with respect and compassion. Suspend your pious judgment and meet people where they are at.  People who have cancer need your help (not your disdain) to learn how to heal, inside and out.

books, glorious books

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I have a long history of leaning on the written word to navigate turbulent times. When I first became a mother 24 long years ago, Dr. William Sears’ The Baby Book was my Dr. Spock of the 1990’s. Ariel Gore’s The Hip Mama Survival Guide and Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions also lived dog-eared beside my bed.

After my first marriage split up, I tapped Anne Lamott once again, lugging her Traveling Mercies in my suitcase when I travelled to Norway with my two young kids. This book served as a salve for my single mom pain.

Martha Beck’s Expecting Adam was one of the only books published 14 years ago about having a baby with Down syndrome. It gave me solace when the baby I expected was not the baby I got. Roadmap to Holland by Jennifer Graf Groneberg offered me a crucial guide to being a new kind of mother. Later, Andrew Solomon’s Far from the Tree offered me important perspective on disability.  His book is a well-researched literary encyclopedia of parenting a child with differences. (I wrote about crushing on Andrew Solomon here). As my boy has gotten older, I have cherished Ian Brown’s musings on the value of people with disabilities in his The Boy in the Moon.

For general woe, I’ve sent Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser to many a friend who is going through a rough time.   Books by strong women always perk me up. Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Love Pray were both books before they were mainstream movies and I gobbled them up in the early days of my second marriage.

Cancer arrived, uninvited and unwelcome, in my left breast earlier this year. In an attempt to comfort myself, I have accumulated too many cancer memoirs, most of which I haven’t even cracked open. I’ve ventured into a few, but found them too cheery, too preachy or too prescriptive. I’ve piled them away in my bookcases for later.

I keep trying on the written word for size. The cancer agency happens to be close to an independent bookstore, so I have spent many hours loitering in the aisles between radiation treatments and oncologist appointments.

These are my favourite books I’ve read over the past months. Many of them came at me sideways, as they aren’t necessarily full-on cancer memoirs, but they contained sentiments that touched on issues that have become suddenly important to me.

Rising Strong by Brene Brown – I’m desperate to gain some resiliency and Brene’s TEDx Talk about vulnerability remains one of my favourite TED talks of all time.

The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs (I reviewed this for The Underbelly, here). Although it is called A Memoir of Living and Dying, I found it to be a beautifully hopeful book.

Ditto with Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air, a tender and tough book about a neurosurgeon who happens to have cancer.  I read it a year before I was diagnosed, but recently revisited it again.

Hungry by Roxane Gay – helped me start to forgive my body as I’ve struggled with the body issues that have accompanied this damn cancer.

Birds, Art, Life – Kyo Maclear’s book was deeply soothing to me as I was searching for grace while waiting for treatment. I wrote about it here.

Teva Harrison’s In-Between Days is both funny and telling – a creative graphic memoir about living with metastatic breast cancer.

The Emperor of all Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee is an impressive, Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of all things cancer, useful as I am trying my damnest to understand this elusive disease. This book is painful to read if you actually do have cancer, but well worth the effort.

Illness as a Metaphor by Susan Sontag is a classic book that analyzes the tired old ‘cancer as a battle’ analogies and got me starting to ponder my new identity as a sick person.

I’m still trying to figure out so much. I’m a nerdy library girl at heart and reading books is my way of gathering information and soothing myself.  Lately, I have remembered that books have always been my friends.

What books provided comfort when you went through dark times? I’d love to add to my collection – please consider leaving a comment with your recommendations.

health squawk

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Rabble-rousing by truth-telling

Health Squawk is my new Instagram account where I share anecdotes about my travels in the health care system.  This is about unveiling the secrets of health care, which includes both the inspirational and the profane.

I believe in using our voices to change the world. The way patients and caregivers do this is by sharing our stories and insights. I dabble in topics that include having breast cancer and being the mom of a kid with a disability.

Do you have a Health Squawk to share?  A short quote illustrating something ridiculous or humorous in health care?  Email me at:

ps:  You are most welcome to share my images, but please do so with credit and a link back to this blog.

an open letter to radiation therapists

June 9, 2017

Letter to folks at Radiation Therapy

I’m done! I moved a crabby, wounded animal on my first week of treatment through to feeling a glimmer of joy today that this cancer business is done (for now).

You have helped me these past four weeks. Thank you. I always presumed competence, but it was your kindness and humanity that set you apart. Here are the small things that meant the world to me:

  1. Eye contact, introductions and smiles.
  2. The offer of a warm blanket.
  3. Chit chat – about the weather, colour of my nail polish, my family, plans for the day.
  4. Helping me on and off the table.
  5. Covering me up as much as possible.
  6. Telling me what you were doing as you went along. (This lessened anxiety, a lot).
  7. Your respectful treatment of my husband and son when they came in.
  8. Being open to answering my questions. Prompting me to ask questions. Saying, ‘what questions do you have’ instead of ‘do you have any questions’
  9. A reassuring hand on me.
  10. Not appearing rushed, even if you were.
  11. Your demonstrated compassion: empathy for fatigue, burning, itching, how crappy this whole experience is.

I am grateful for all those so-called little things. I think medicine can cure (sometimes) but it is the love that actually heals us patients.

Please keep doing these things, even if the system tells you otherwise. They matter.

Sue Robins.

(Shared with the Radiation Therapists on my unit at the cancer agency (and their manager) on my last day of treatment.  Although I’m quick to provide ‘constructive feedback’, I also strongly believe in saying thank you too).  

I am a Patient & I have had an Experience

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My treatment is over now and I am running out of excuses for naps, begging off obligations and almond croissants.  I am achingly exhausted earlier and earlier every day and I have been told this fatigue will continue for several weeks. This cancer treatment is killing my social life.

As my oncologist says, two minutes of radiation is like spending the day in the hot sun, so I’m lurching around with a version of constant sunstroke.  My boob is super itchy which is an annoyance but not debilitating. I asked the Radiation Therapists, why do some people get burned and itchy and some do not and they did not know.  I have no idea what research is going on over at that fancy Research Building across the street, but apparently it is not research on side effects like itchy boobs.

I promised not to be complain because I did not need chemo and I did not need a mastectomy and for those reasons I am lucky.  Or rather, I am a lucky unlucky person because I still have breast cancer and being diagnosed with cancer has really messed me up, mostly in my mind.  I hope this blog isn’t negative.  I hope I don’t sound like a victim. I’m just trying to be a real person.  My experience having breast cancer has been surprisingly complicated and not all pink ribbons and teddy bears.  It has shaken me to my core.

Two weeks ago, I had a voice mail message from a manager at the cancer agency.  Apparently someone had forwarded my blog and told him to call me to talk about my ‘experience.’  I arranged to meet with him and Mike and I showed up to his windowless office before one of my daily radiation treatments.

He was a pleasant fellow, new to his job.  It was clear I had been labeled a ‘complaint,’ when in fact I had not contacted them with a complaint at all.  I was only writing about my own personal experience for my own blog.  True, my blog is public, but it feels creepy that my blog is being monitored in this way.  I felt reported.  We chatted about the patient experience in general and I emphasized that I hadn’t complained, but that I did have some ideas for improvement.  He wrote down a few things and that was that.

Later, I asked the people who had forwarded my blog for an in-person meeting with them and suggested that maybe they could have asked me if I wanted to have a manager  contact me.  I would have liked some choice in the matter, as opposed to someone assuming I wanted a call.  I got the ultimate brush-off message back and my request for a meeting was totally ignored.

Feeling discouraged, I then followed up, sending on a couple of general videos about patient experience (this and this), asking to meet with the administrator in charge of Patient Experience.  I am a Patient and I have had an Experience after all.  I sent that email ten days ago and have not heard back. I can take a hint.

It has always puzzled me why patients with feedback are silenced and pushed away.  Don’t professionals learn through challenging situations?  Aren’t ‘complaints’ just constructive feedback that can be used to improve care and service?  Am I the most naïve person on earth?

With all this ignoring of my requests and emails, I’ve realized that I’ve been labeled as ‘difficult’ – maybe even ‘crazy’ or ‘hysterical’ (terms I’ve heard used by staff for families – usually mothers – at children’s hospitals).  This is humiliating.  As I told the manager, I want to help. Patients have good ideas and aren’t actually stupid.  But I do not have any credibility at this cancer place beyond being ‘only’ a patient.  To administrators, patients are a generic cluster of diagnoses, not real people with ideas or opinions.  We are all a bunch of nobodies.

It was silly, or maybe arrogant, for me to think they want my help.  When feedback from patients is solicited by hospitals, through tools like surveys and comment cards, it is okay.  But when patients approach them with feedback that is not overtly asked for, we are shut down, brushed aside, minimized, gotten rid of, seen as a problem that needs to be handled.  I see this now.  We are supposed to shut up and be grateful for care.  Me and my itchy boob will zip it for now and stop rabble-rousing with the organization (and please know that I am grateful for the care, and brought in nice chocolates for the Radiation Therapists to my last appointment) and move forward.

Maybe one day an authentic chance to give feedback will be offered to me.  I was given a patient satisfaction survey to fill out a few days ago, but it had only a tiny spot to write ‘one or two ideas for improvement.’  I dutifully scribbled in a couple of thoughts – about orientation and waiting rooms – but I actually have about 100 ideas for improvement, but there was no room for them on the page.  No matter.

Currently, I am sick of the whole health care system.  Now is the time for me to rest, begin healing and scratch around to find a little bit of peace in my heart.  There are books to read, walks to be taken, music to be listened to and, most important of all, people to love.  Thank you to all who have shown up for me.  xo.

Susan gets radiated

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From the Happster’s Instagram feed

At 8:15 am, I walked into the sad building that is the Cancer Agency. So dated and scuffed, the elevator always packed, the piano in the lobby sitting empty. I go upstairs and dutifully wait in line to register. Last time I didn’t stand on the left, as the tattered sign instructed me to and I was scolded. This time I knew better. ‘Follow the green line to Treatment Area 7’ I’m told. So that’s what I do.

Treatment Area 7 is at the very end of the building. I walk past the other treatment areas and peek into the waiting areas. They are filled with people in various stages of pain.

I’m feeling especially sad for myself because I’m alone.

I get to Treatment Area 7 and sit down. I notice other women there already changed into gowns. It is only women. I don’t know if Treatment Area 7 is just for breast cancer or what. Nobody tells me anything.

I’m not sure if the staff know I’m there. I don’t have a gown. I try to ask a woman across from me – ‘excuse me’ I say but she is immersed in her phone and doesn’t answer. She wears a scarf to cover her bare head and I feel guilty that I don’t need chemo. I don’t bother her again.

I’m now thinking there’s no way they know I’m here because I don’t have a gown. So I get up and present myself to Treatment Area 7’s desk. A young man looks up, annoyed. Just go sit down he says. Okay, I say, compliant and small. The TV is blaring a shrill morning news show in the holding area. There’s no peace here. I sit and close my eyes.

The same young man calls my name, ‘Susan’ he says. Call me Sue! I say cheerfully. Nobody calls me Susan anymore.

He’s still annoyed with me. I must be like 25 years older than him. I am an old woman to him – worse, an old woman with cancer. He has the information he needs to share with me on a wipeable plastic piece of paper. I know after he’s done with me, he will just wipe all my information off and replace it with someone else’s.

First he wants to set me straight for coming up to the desk. ‘Don’t come up to the desk,’ he says. ‘That interrupts us and we are busy working.’ I nod like I’m supposed to. ‘Next time put this pink card in that box so we know you are there.’ I protest meekly: ‘I didn’t know. It is my first time.’ He stares at me blankly, like it has never been someone’s first time before. ‘The receptionist just told me to come here,’ I say finally, quietly.

This seems like a dumb thread of conversation, so I give up, defeated. I hope he’s not my radiation therapist because I don’t want him to see my scarred and beleaguered boob.

He hands me the pink card with my appointment times for next week on it. I cannot get over how archaic and paper based this whole thing is. It is like 1961. What if I lose this coveted card? I’m sure that means I’m in trouble. I can’t help but peek at the times.

Three of out five of them are either early in the morning or late in the day. When they called me last week and asked my preference for time, I said 10 to 1 pm. There are only two mid-day times. Immediately I start panicking, thinking about how I’m going to get childcare to get Aaron back and forth to school. Crap.

Um, I say, hesitant to interrupt his reading of the information from the plastic sheet. ‘I can’t come at these times,’ I say. I bring on yet more annoyance. ‘I can talk to the clerk but I can’t guarantee it,’ he says.

I reluctantly pull the disability card. ‘My son has a disability. Not just anybody can pick him up from school.’ This is a bit exaggerated but mostly true. I don’t know if this helps or just makes me look more pathetic. Patient has cancer AND a kid with a disability. Sad. ‘We’ll see,’ he shrugs.

I follow him around as he shows me where to get changed. There’s some complicated formula for the gown thing – I’m to wear the same one every time so they don’t have to wash it as much. I leave it in a numbered bag and hang it back up afterwards. I have to remember my number.

Okay, I keep saying, nodding. At the end, he says, reading off an invisible script, ‘if you have any questions, just come and ask us.’ I am puzzled by this comment. I thought I wasn’t supposed to come up and speak to them. Maybe it depends what kind of question I have.

I get changed and look at myself in the mirror. I look terrible. My hair is frizzy. My hair colour is all fading and I look unhinged. My mascara is smudged under my eyes. Why did I bother wearing make up? I haven’t slept much. In fact, I haven’t slept much since I found that ominous lump last November, which was six long months ago.

I sit back down. They call my name again, ‘Susan’. This time I don’t bother to correct them. Susan it is. Maybe it can be Susan who has cancer. Sue does not have cancer. I’ll go back to Sue later.

The radiation therapists are both women, but they are considerably less warm than the staff who did my CT scan last week. No chit chat, nothing. Climb up here, they say. I was going to joke ‘this is just like the spa!’ but I opt to say nothing. They do not seem like the joking types. They do introduce themselves, but everything they do feels like they are ticking off a box on the list.

I have to hold my breath when I am radiated. I cannot believe how stupid this sounds and how long it took the researchers to figure out if you have cancer on the left side, holding your breath during radiation helps prevent heart disease. At least I hope it does anyhow.

‘At your CT scan, you let some air out while holding your breath.’ the radiation therapist says. Immediately I feel shame. ‘They told me I did a good job!’ I say, lightly. ‘You let some air out,’ she repeated. Then she produces what looks like a clip to hang clothes. ‘If you do it again, you have to wear this,’ she says. I don’t want to wear a clip on my nose. I have a recurring nightmare of suffocating underwater because I can’t breathe. ‘I’ll do better,’ I promise.

The lights are blaring above. I wonder why they can’t turn them down. I read once there is sometimes music. There is no music here, just the whirring of the machine. I close my eyes. They are yanking the sheet under me to put me in the right position. I pretend I’m sitting on the beach in Kaua’i. I imagine watching the waves flow in and out. I keep breathing. I think, someone should teach patients relaxation techniques before they start treatment. I have to work more on relaxing. Right now, I’m the least relaxed person on Earth.

They exit the room and I’m alone with the machine. I already hate the machine. This is the coldest and least human kind of health care. I crack open a tiny bit and start crying. My hands are above my head, in some sort of weird S&M position and I can’t wipe away my tears. I can’t cry and hold my breath at the same time, so I’m a bit panicked. I have to calm the fuck down.

They talk to me through an intercom. Apparently there’s a video camera on me so they probably saw me crying but they don’t care. I wonder if other women cry. The faceless voice instructs me over the speakers. I have to take deep breaths in and hold them for a long time. I am obedient, scared of getting the nose clip and try to comply. My poor left breast is exposed, both to the air and to the burning radiation rays. Slash, poison, burn. That’s cancer treatment in a nutshell.

I feel nothing now, but later my skin will be burned. It is cumulative so I’ll be scorched after a few more sessions.

It is done. I don’t know how long it took. Maybe 10 minutes? I get off the table and stand awkwardly in the room. ‘You can go,’ they say, pointing to the exit. Thank you, I say. I thank everybody for doing their job. I know this game. If I’m not overly grateful, I’ll be labeled as difficult, which won’t help if I need a favour one day.

I need to ask about my appointment times, but there’s that guy sitting at the desk again. I march back up there, taking my chances. I need my pink card back.

He’s busy using liquid paper of some sort to change the times on my card. Now only one is not mid-day instead of three. Thank you so much, I say, again. I see the door across the hall says, ‘radiation booking clerk’ so I know this hasn’t been much effort for him.

I get changed and get the hell out of there, following the green line all the way back to the elevator. I can’t figure out where the stairs are, so I stand silently in the full elevator for only one stop, looking at the floor.

I sit alone in the cafeteria with a tea, waiting for my Mike to arrive.  He is rushing to get here after dropping Aaron off at school. One burn down, 19 more to go.

(Note:  I wrote this ten days ago after my first day of radiation.  I’ve tried to shake this experience off and let it go.  Since then, I’ve had five more treatments.  The experience has improved because:  1.  I know what to expect and 2. Sometimes I am assigned a friendly radiation therapist.  I am sticking to my contention that one little smile in health care always helps).