Being diagnosed with breast cancer in May of 2015 at the age of 55, I learned that I had quite a journey ahead of me in treatments, appointments, surgeries and lots of opportunities for “enriching” experiences with all sort of people. So I’m almost a year in and I’ve had all of the above – especially the “enriching” experiences.
I’ve told stories of chemo chair neighbors, waiting room experiences and recovery challenges. But none can compare to this one: special treatment peers.
Radiation is a bit of a different waiting room experience than chemo. People are sort of “over it.” After all, if you don’t get the crap scared out of you by the time you’ve been through surgery (perhaps even more than one) and chemo, then you’re not going to. Radiation just is as scary. This could be for a few different reasons:
- What has already been seen and experienced
- It takes just a few minutes.
- It doesn’t hurt or make you feel weird while it’s been done.
- Its visual effect is a lot like sunburn (which we voluntarily subject ourselves to on a regular basis).
Whatever the reason or reasons, patients are much more upbeat and talkative in the waiting room. And that opens a window for some very interesting conversations to fly in.
If there is one thing that illness is, it’s undiscriminating. There are the rich, the poor and the median income levels. There are the smart and not-so-smart, the young and the older – even old. And there are the sweet and not-so-sweet – actually not-so-sweet is too nice. Let’s be honest and say the sweet and the bitchy.
From the lady who gave a gift to every person she met in chemo to the one who battled cancer twice before and then this year (20 years later) was diagnosed again with brain cancer, broke her shoulder and hip in an accident that delayed the start of her radiation and was waiting to hear if her husband has lung cancer, people have been inspiring, encouraging and supportive. But there are a few whose behavior is so striking because it is uniquely ridiculous, inappropriate and idiotic. One of those is the focus of the story for today.
You know that this person is “unique” without even meeting her. You need only hear samplings of her ramblings.
A few traits help to describe her:
- She forgets to breathe when she talks. It happens that fast.
- She knows only how to talk in negatives not positives.
- She always has things “done” to her. Nothing simply happens to her.
- She likes to thinks she’s an expert but you easily see that she rolls with about ½ the facts, at best.
- She’s experienced everything you’ve experienced – only worse.
That may help you to form an image.
She is what you could describe as looking “rode hard and put up wet.” She has some pretty severe-looking stringy, hombre hair that is a few colors that can’t be really identified – even from a box. Her teeth need work. They’re sort of grayish-yellow like she smokes but she doesn’t wreak of tobacco or smoke and they look sort of pushed in in the front. A good age estimate is 62-64 but she wears shorts as short as 15-year-old’s (and has the legs of an out-of-shape 62 year old). She tops this off with high heels. And the colors. Well let’s just say she like to do monochrome without matching the monochromes and loves turquoise, yellow and lime green. Do you have this image locked in your head?
She has one of those voices. You’d rather hear nails on a chalk board (or David Lee Roth screaming). And you’re going to hear it a lot because she never shuts up. Never.
You could tolerate all of that if what came out of her mouth was nice or at least reasonable. But it’s not.
- She talks endlessly about the ridiculousness of the treatment that her doctors are putting her through.
- She actually stated that anyone who allows their doctor to put them through chemo is an idiot because it will simply kill you. (This is in a room where 9 of 10 have been through chemo – and you can tell since they either have sparse or very short hair).
- She believes that her doctor is torturing her personally with the “diet” that she has been put on since being diagnosed since she believes that she can only eat a few of the most unpopular vegetables on earth. (Meanwhile she prefers to eat steak every day…..although since she started radiation she admits that she’s been binging on ice cream – so much for the vegetables.)
- She endless complains about the inconvenience of her treatment – noting that her doctor’s staff should do more to take what she’s going through into consideration with all of this ridiculousness. And that radiation is actually making her hair color change on her head – even though her treatment area is limited to just her breast.
- She complains that she’s been through so much that she simply didn’t pay her bills for 3 months and can’t understand why people like Time Warner Cable and Duke Power won’t just forgive her bills for those 3 months because she has cancer. (Note that I said “forgive”. She really doesn’t think she should have to pay these bills. Both of these companies kept her services going and tried to work out a staged out payment plan for her to pay back the 3 delinquent months….)
- She was unemployed when she was diagnosed and complained that she doesn’t have the money to pay what Medicare won’t cover. When asked if she had inquired with the considerable financial aid resources available through Levine, CMC, Komen, Carolina Breast Friends and the American Cancer Society, she said that they were absolutely no help. They had refused her. It was soon revealed that she had asked that they write checks out directly to her so she could cash them and do stuff like get her hair done….And with others she refused to turn over tax and income statements for their approval processes. Hmmmm. Wonder why she was refused? Ha!
- She claims to be the sweetest, kindest friend that anyone could have and then complains about the friends who have “turned on her” after she’s raked them over the coals for failing to send her a get well card after her surgery. How could they?? She noted that she was really better off because that friend didn’t have real money – just enough from her mother’s estate to buy herself a house in Fort Mill.
- She talks about a “boyfriend” who lives on the Jersey shore (and therefore must be wealthy) and takes care of his parents. He is crazy about her (in fact, he pursued her for months before she would even talk to him) but he’s only been to Charlotte once to see her – even though he is “big” into auto-racing and – according to her – has made several donations to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Hmmmmm on a couple of points in that one.
- She also talks about her early dating years when she dated lots of men including a Japanese fellow 10 years her junior. This was OK because he was very good looking. She says that now she wants an American and not a Jap. (Her words, not mine) She’s a lunatic.
- She finally landed a job as a perfume-sprayer at the mall. She describes it as the hardest job in the world – but she hasn’t even started yet.
- She hates Charlotte. She constantly proclaims that she’s a northerner. Wonder why she didn’t look for a job in some northern city (close to the Jersey shore and her beloved Bill) after she lost the job she had?? She notes that you can’t make friends in Charlotte and it’s terrible to look for a job. (maybe it’s just her) Charlotte doesn’t know how to put on an event, celebrate Christmas or run their government or their hospitals. Her mail carrier doesn’t even deliver her mail to suit her.
This woman’s husband died 7 years ago. He probably offed himself to get away. (that was horrible – sorry) And she has a daughter who understandably lives out of town.
The medical staff that has to deal with this lovely creature must feel as if they’ve done something they’re being punished for. Imagining that mouth constantly going as technicians are trying to get her set up on the treatment table, you’re suddenly sorry for them that it’s illegal for them to duck-tape her mouth. It’s hard to imagine what a consultation must be like for her doctors (whose names she can never remember).
There have been near-episodes, in fact. Complaining that she may be late for a 3pm appointment, she constantly commented that “they better not make me late.” Most folks realize that almost every medical office or treatment area runs behind – especially when it gets late in the day. The point is – you don’t make an appointment for 3pm when you have radiation treatment at 2:40 (not unless you’re insane). When the person ahead of her was called in, Ms. Special asked the technician to take her instead. The technician noted that the set up according to the order of their appointments so changing the order would cause more delays. So – No. That wasn’t what she wanted to hear and she let them know. The technician had to close the door with the complaints still raging. She was late for her appointment. Oh well. Hopefully she learned that lesson.
So, the best way to get through waiting room time when “nut job” alias “freak show” is holding court is to bring your adult coloring book, go to the corner that is as far away from her as possible, put your head down and color. Even if something she says strikes your funny bone, you cannot let her see your reaction. Snicker internally. And you do because the entire scene – from her looks to her non-breathing talking technique to her outlandish comments – are so far off kilter that it’s hilarious. It’s an absolute show. Too bad it can’t be caught on camera.