On the Path to the Cancer Ward

Jean Williams

There’s a chemical smell that hits you on the way to the cancer center. Some bright spark of an architect put the building’s main vents just near the entrance doors. Every time you walk up the path, the smell of chemotherapy hits you. Once you’ve been to an oncology ward, you don’t forget that smell.

Every two weeks we drive to Steve’s appointment in heavy silence. We drag our feet up that path while I try not to breathe in. We sit in the chairs in the hallway; he stares into space while I fight back tears and push down panic. A nurse shows him to a green vinyl recliner more suited to watching TV than to having poison pumped into your veins. We wait for the slow drip-drip! drip-drip! of the drugs.

The aim of Steve’s chemo is curative, they keep reminding us. I think it’s to help us “stay positive”. It doesn’t help much. Doctors are relatively confident about colorectal tumors, and that’s how they’re treating Steve’s small bowel cancer—but no one knows much about this rare disease.

Except God, of course. He knows every cell in Steve’s body, and he is not at the mercy of statistics or uncertain prognoses or rare cancers. And so we fight to trust him.

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