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Everybody's Favorite Cancer Patient

BY David Weiskircher
PUBLISHED June 14, 2016
Editor’s Note: This piece was submitted by a contributing writer and does not represent the views of CURE Media Group.
“You’re one of our favorite patients.”

We’ve heard that, and variations, over the years. It wasn’t just one person, and it wasn’t in just one medical office. When you’re a habitual patient, as Genie was, you get to know lots of people.

Genie had a knack for making friends, and it was because she was gracious and gregarious, and someone who always carried a smile. And that’s what’s so fascinating. Metastatic breast cancer, and its treatment and the side effects could suck the graciousness out of the Mother Teresa.

One recent day when I didn’t have anything better to do, I tried counting the times that Genie went in for treatment. I gave up somewhere in 2010 not only because that’s when things became confusing, but because I was getting depressed thinking about it. Let’s just say she went a lot. I saw the patients in the chemo room and the gamut of emotion. Some were cranky, while some were woodenly jovial. Some were sullen, while some were downright obstreperous. It’s fair to say that they all felt badly, and that’s being understated. The thing about chemotherapy is that every drug you’re given – even the mildest – carries side effects. Chemotherapy and radiation beat down your immune system to the point you become susceptible to the smallest sickness. And because you’re in a weakened state, the smallest sickness can become the largest sickness in no time flat. All of a sudden, having an “upset stomach” can become a game-changer. It can bring you to your knees, and maybe even put you in the hospital. So, generally, everyone in the chemo room feels bad.

That’s the physical. What of the mental? Some people with metastatic cancer stay in a funk, and, of course, no one would argue with them on that point (at least I hope not). Try to cheer them up – sure. Argue with them – um, no.

Then there was Genie. Every time she walked into the chemo room, no matter how she felt (and there were days she could barely get out of bed) she smiled at everybody and always had nice words for the nurses and her fellow patients. With her smile, strength and graciousness, she was everyone’s favorite patient. In all those years, I watched her, closely and from afar. I saw things in her I found remarkable. So did others. Not only did Genie never blame anyone for what she was going through, she never forgot those who helped her. Through the years, she’d do special things for the people in the medical office, such as having pizzas or cakes delivered. More importantly, she took an interest in their lives as hers was ending. The week before hospice, we went to the office one last time. She walked the halls, and poked her head into offices. She wanted to thank everyone who’d helped her. She wanted to say goodbye. She made it a point.
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