Blood Draw

Yesterday I spent five hours at the cancer center, getting an ultrasound, getting blood-work, then waiting for my doctor’s appointment. After the ultrasound — 40 minutes in a very quiet, dark room, which encourage a kind of meditation, if not sleep — I headed to “Blood Draw.”

For the past 4 and a half years, Blood Draw has been a humbling experience. In the beginning, before the kids were in school, I sometimes brought them with me. They’d be busy playing and generally being adorable, while patients of all kinds, in various stages of health, some experiencing obvious levels of pain, looked on, smiling.

In later years, the kids would be in school, and I’d be there by myself, with more time to observe. Fellow patients reminded me of my late father-in-law, my sister, my mother, or my friend–all of whom are far too familiar with cancer-related blood draws. I’d watch the people who accompanied the fellow patients, their spouses, caregivers, and friends. I’d think of my mother-in-law, my brother-in-law, my dad, and my friend’s daughter and mom.

It slays me.

Yesterday, I watched a woman who is about my mother’s age slowly enter the Blood Draw waiting room, using her walker, accompanied by a friend. Pain and resolve were etched into her face. She looked so grim, but graceful. I watched another woman enter, followed by her spouse. He barged into the room, saw that it was crowded and that his wife still had to wait, and muttered, “Unbelievable!” In a flash, I saw my dad.

I looked down at my little wristband that signified my membership in the Blood Draw group. I felt like such a fraud.

I looked again at these patients. And I suddenly thought of my four-year-old niece, who the night prior had been celebrated for eating “the most” at a dinner prepared by my mom. My mom, who couldn’t sit up for more than 10 minutes several months ago due to the effects of her cancer and her chemo, is now making her favorite dinners for her grandchildren. I get to take the kids there next week. I’m already smelling my Mom’s cooking.

Right then, in a crowded Blood Draw waiting room, my eyes welled with tears.

I blinked them back quickly. No tears at Blood Draw.

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