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A Recliner, Short Round and Chemotherapy


How even "Indiana Jones" can remind a survivor of medical procedures from years ago.

I can't even count how many times I sat there as a kid, in that cold leather recliner in the dimly lit chemo room. That chair never seemed to really ever get warm, or comfortable, even with me wrapped solid in warmed up blankets. I don't know, maybe it was the incessantly lingering smell of alcohol that made the place feel less than homey - or maybe it was the anxiety of what was to come shortly after leaving the chair: intense sickness. To this day, leather recliners remind me of chemotherapy. I know, a bit strange.

With chemotherapy, or any bad experience for that matter, can come reminders. Reminders brought on by a song, person, chair or even a refrigerator, as I once wrote about. The reminders aren't exactly intentional, much the opposite. They are things that inadvertently work their way back into some corner of your mind, only to abruptly resurface later without warning.

Yeah, I know, it was just a chair, big deal, right? But over the years, one collects these reminders, many of them, and a day can become inundated with things that remind you of less-than-awesome events in your life, cancer and everything that comes with it.

For me it's something like this: the smell of a refrigerator reminds me of the ice cap I wore as a kid to keep my hair from falling out; a Casio watch, my friend Sam who died shortly after I met him; a Walkman, the device that got me through each chemo session; banana pudding, what I was fed to help me put on weight after losing so much from chemo; G.I. Joe figures, being rewarded for completing each chemo session; the Indian, Squanto, being in a play shortly after a chemo treatment; Sunday evenings, just hours away from my next chemo treatment - and would you believe that Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom reminds me of an emergency surgery I had in fifth grade and not "Short Round?"

So yeah, many of us can experience things that evoke some unpleasant memories of the past. Things that are stuck with us. What can we do about that? Well, it's a constant battle, but being aware, creating new memories and finding a purpose for each day and something to look forward to, may help. It's worked for me anyway. I don't have to change the world each day, but looking forward to my workout, writing or even anticipation of what good might come helps me get through.

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Dr. Lauren Pinter-Brown