Treatment Snapshot
March 24, 2010
Excerpt from "Only 10 Seconds to Care"
December 23, 2009 – Wendy Harpham, MD
Cancer as a Turning Point
December 23, 2009 – Don Vaughan
Best Face Forward
December 23, 2009 – Lacey Meyer
Recipes from Chef Hans Rueffert
December 20, 2009
A Skinny Chef You Can Trust
December 22, 2009 – Karen Patterson
Getting Help
December 23, 2009 – Jo Cavallo
Stress Reducers
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Cisforcupid.com
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Only 10 Seconds to Care: Help and Hope for Busy Clinicians
December 23, 2009 – Kathy LaTour
Flavored-Cigarette Ban Takes Effect, With More to Come
December 23, 2009 – Lacey Meyer
Stress, Depression & PTSD
December 23, 2009 – Laurie M. Fisher
Imaging Strategies: The Bigger Picture
December 23, 2009 – Laura Beil
Herceptin Combinations Improve Survival, Lessen Heart Toxicity
December 23, 2009 – Laura Beil
Integrative Techniques: A Sampler
December 23, 2009 – Marc Silver
Drug Therapies
December 23, 2009 – Elizabeth Whittington
Letters from Our Readers
December 23, 2009
Treatment Updates
December 23, 2009 – Staff Reports
CDC picks up the tab for colon cancer screening
December 23, 2009 – Lacey Meyer
Mutant Tissue Wanted
December 23, 2009 – Kathy LaTour
The More You Know
December 23, 2009 – Helen Osborne
Patients' Songs Take Flight
December 23, 2009 – Bunmi Ishola
Q&A: Cervical Cancer Vaccine
December 23, 2009 – Len Lichtenfeld, MD
Comfort in Strange Places
December 23, 2009 – Susie Kasinski Drummond
The 'Price' is $1 Million
December 23, 2009 – Lacey Meyer
Pancreatic Cancer Symposia
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Tired of Being Tired?
December 23, 2009 – Lacey Meyer
Message From the Editor
December 23, 2009 – Debu Tripathy, MD
Beneficial Brew
December 23, 2009 – Lena Huang
Gut Reaction
December 23, 2009 – Karen Patterson
Today's Lesson: Cancer
December 23, 2009 – Bunmi Ishola
Uncertain Obligations
December 23, 2009 – Jo Cavallo
Beyond Face Value
December 22, 2009 – Terry Healey
Cancer's Silver Lining
December 22, 2009 – Don Vaughan
Kids Allowed
December 21, 2009 – Marc Silver
Layman's Terms
December 23, 2009 – Charlotte Huff
All Stressed Out
December 23, 2009 – Laurie M. Fisher
Bad Neighbors
December 22, 2009 – Laura Beil
Treatment Snapshot
March 24, 2010
Excerpt from "Only 10 Seconds to Care"
December 23, 2009 – Wendy Harpham, MD
Cancer as a Turning Point
December 23, 2009 – Don Vaughan
Best Face Forward
December 23, 2009 – Lacey Meyer
Recipes from Chef Hans Rueffert
December 20, 2009
A Skinny Chef You Can Trust
December 22, 2009 – Karen Patterson
Getting Help
December 23, 2009 – Jo Cavallo
Stress Reducers
December 23, 2009 – Laurie M. Fisher
Cisforcupid.com
December 23, 2009 – Lacey Meyer
Only 10 Seconds to Care: Help and Hope for Busy Clinicians
December 23, 2009 – Kathy LaTour
Flavored-Cigarette Ban Takes Effect, With More to Come
December 23, 2009 – Lacey Meyer
Stress, Depression & PTSD
December 23, 2009 – Laurie M. Fisher
Imaging Strategies: The Bigger Picture
December 23, 2009 – Laura Beil
Herceptin Combinations Improve Survival, Lessen Heart Toxicity
December 23, 2009 – Laura Beil
Integrative Techniques: A Sampler
December 23, 2009 – Marc Silver
Drug Therapies
December 23, 2009 – Elizabeth Whittington
Letters from Our Readers
December 23, 2009
Treatment Updates
December 23, 2009 – Staff Reports
CDC picks up the tab for colon cancer screening
December 23, 2009 – Lacey Meyer
Mutant Tissue Wanted
December 23, 2009 – Kathy LaTour
The More You Know
December 23, 2009 – Helen Osborne
Patients' Songs Take Flight
December 23, 2009 – Bunmi Ishola
Q&A: Cervical Cancer Vaccine
December 23, 2009 – Len Lichtenfeld, MD
Currently Viewing
Comfort in Strange Places
December 23, 2009 – Susie Kasinski Drummond
Pancreatic Cancer Symposia
December 23, 2009
Tired of Being Tired?
December 23, 2009 – Lacey Meyer
Message From the Editor
December 23, 2009 – Debu Tripathy, MD
Beneficial Brew
December 23, 2009 – Lena Huang
Gut Reaction
December 23, 2009 – Karen Patterson
Today's Lesson: Cancer
December 23, 2009 – Bunmi Ishola
Uncertain Obligations
December 23, 2009 – Jo Cavallo
Beyond Face Value
December 22, 2009 – Terry Healey
Cancer's Silver Lining
December 22, 2009 – Don Vaughan
Kids Allowed
December 21, 2009 – Marc Silver
Layman's Terms
December 23, 2009 – Charlotte Huff
All Stressed Out
December 23, 2009 – Laurie M. Fisher
Bad Neighbors
December 22, 2009 – Laura Beil

Comfort in Strange Places

Learning to appreciate the best seat in the house.

BY Susie Kasinski Drummond
PUBLISHED December 23, 2009

After a lengthy, late-afternoon consultation with my oncologist, a nurse and I toured the medical facility. So the first time I walked into the infusion room, it was after 5 p.m. Until that point, I had handled my biopsy, breast cancer diagnosis, and treatment plan in stride. But one look at that room, and my knees buckled. It forced me to accept that I was sick.

My weekly infusion sessions became my unofficial support group meetings. Our time together represented so much more than a doctor’s appointment.

As I sat in the infusion room and welcomed toxic chemicals into my body, I was arrogant and strong, yet humble and grateful. I was part of a group that shared health updates, compared treatment notes, and suggested ways to reduce nausea. My fellow survivors understood what it was like to vomit until you feared your toenails would fly out of your mouth. They recognized new anticancer drugs’ impact on our life span. They appreciated each Thursday morning’s dose of hope.

My weekly infusion sessions became my unofficial support group meetings. Our time together represented so much more than a doctor’s appointment.

Now, when I visit my oncologist, I glance around the once-intimidating infusion room. It looks the same, but my view is much brighter. The dark shadows have dissipated. Instead, I see hand-crafted blankets draped over chairs, a collection of colorful hats, and the coffeepot brewing another cup of comfort. I can’t help but smile. 

At the beginning of my cancer journey, the room overwhelmed me. In the end, I realized it was simply the place where I was infused with hope.

Susie Kasinski Drummond is a breast cancer survivor and freelance writer who resides in Wisconsin.

*Names have been changed to respect patient privacy.

I tried to maintain a positive outlook as I prepared for each grueling chemotherapy infusion. I imagined my sessions as fun outings rather than dreaded appointments. Yet, these early visits were daunting as I watched other patients enter the room, expose their ports, and get infused.

It seemed a much too personal experience for such a public arrangement of seats. I believed private rooms would be better than the group experience. But that was before I witnessed the importance of community when it came to battling cancer.

During months of treatment, I watched fellow patients endure good weeks and awful moments. When someone was diverted to the only private room, it usually meant a detour to the nearby hospital was imminent.

Joan, a cancer comrade, commented on a low point in my course of therapy when, she said, she saw me “sitting in that chair just sicker than a dog.” We managed to laugh, knowing we were all in this together, each of us as vulnerable as the next. Although no one had a last name, those patients became my chemo buddies. 

There was Pete, two decades my senior, who always commented on the status of my eyebrows because he knew that being bald bothered me much less than the loss of my lashes and brows. Their absence caused me more angst than the stubble sprouting from my naked skull.

Then there was Dave, who offered to pay the nurses to get the women in the infusion room to stop talking. The bribes grew with the volume of the women’s conversations.

Despite a seemingly ominous ovarian cancer diagnosis, Gina, a triathlete, inspired us with her endurance. We celebrated her return to racing.

One day, we shared stories of Barb’s premature passing and the time she presented an impromptu scarf-tying seminar to a group of bald women hooked up to intravenous drips. We remembered her inherent beauty, which she wrapped so gracefully in chiffon and love. As we reminisced, we privately wondered who would die next and who would be cured. 

Some patients were regulars; others I met only once. Still others appeared on the newspaper’s obituary page with pat phrases such as “lost a courageous battle.” Most finished treatment and never looked back, but all of them live on in my memory.

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