I was diagnosed on a Monday. I started chemo the very next day, a Tuesday, followed by a bunch of x-rays and the insertion of the port a cath on Wednesday. The first fellow patient that I met at Phan's office was a young man named Steve. I met him on that first Tuesday. I was getting chemo through an IV in the arm and was real nervous about what laid ahead for me, including getting a port a cath. Steve talked to me about his port a cath; how it was no big deal and actually made getting chemo easier. Steve also joked around with the nurses, talking about movies and shit. I'd always been of the mind set that nurses are nurses and patients are patients. Light chatter and friendly interaction with a nurse seemed foreign to me. I certainly know different now. Phan's nurses and other nurses I've met are like family to me now...part of the team. Talking to Steve that Tuesday was real helpful. He was undergoing chemo, yet the doctors weren't sure about the root of his cancer. But he was calm, funny, and super nice.
Over the next few months I'd see Steve fairly regularly at Phan's office. His grandma usually came with him. Leslie and his grandma would chat while they waited for us to do our treatment.
It's been a few months since I've seen Steve, and frankly I was scared to ask how he was doing. Leslie recently ran into a nurse at a local hospital. The nurse told Leslie Steve was there recently, that he was hanging in there, but not doing so great.
Well, today I went to chemo. In the entry of the medical building, coming around a corner leaving the building was a young, thin guy in a wheel chair. We both said "excuse me" as we were tracking along the same line around that corner. I had to a move a bit. We both did a double take. He looked familiar, but he also looked unfamiliar. It hit me as I walked into Phan's office. That was Steve. I asked one of the nurses if Steve was just in the office and in a wheelchair. She said "yes". Damn that was Steve. I felt horrible for not recognizing him and not saying hi. He looked like a different person and he looked like he isn't doing all that good. Poor guy. But I also had a twinge of guilt. Here I was bouncing into the building, feeling great and there Steve was not feeling great. I really wish I had stopped to say hi and chat. The nurses said he'll be back in the office on Monday and Wednesday next week. Those are not my chemo days but I might go back when he is there.
When I went to the support group n January, some of the other members talked about how when someone doesn't show for meetings, that it might mean the person isn't doing well or perhaps has died. They told the meeting facilitator that they wanted to know what happened to those absent people. Pull no punches they said. Death is definitely part of cancer and the cancer experience. I've been so lucky to gotten to where I'm at. But damn, I feel like I've seen a lot and have met a bunch of super strong and resilient people. Life little stresses don't mean anything in the big scheme of things. When I did my stem cell gathering, I saw a handful of other patients every day for a week. We didn't necessarily talk much, but there was an unspoken kinship that I can't describe.
Steve's impact on me was huge. I was scared shitless, but his demeanor and personality were a welcome calming influence. Even today when I saw him, but didn't see him, it was his eyes that told me it was Steve, They were friendly, pleasant and relaxed. I hope I see him next week to wish him well and to say thanks.