Survivor Stories The Chemo-Scene

Ted RobertsChemo-scene, oh chemo-scene.
How serene, how serene.


I never expected this: I mean the chemo-scene. Here I am in the chemo ward taking a few light treatments to dissolve a bizarre bacterial attempt to invade my right lung. I look around and see smiley chatting “patients” (they don’t look like cancer patients) talking to their neighbors and other visitors. Those under treatment relax in big, fat overstuffed recliners that look more comfortable than the ones at home, while healing fluids drip into their veins – a silent, painless process. They are a mix of talkers, readers, and nappers. The nurses and hospital attendants keep up the mood (or perhaps inspire it). Everyone here appears to be a victor in that uphill battle versus the Big Bad C (cancer is a word few say aloud in this ’hood).

To stir things up, a cart loaded with snacks and drinks periodically drifts into our hive, further sweetening the mood. All free, too. An excellent incentive to indulge. So, we have a roomful of snacky, chatty folks – most of whom are confident of victory in this lengthy war. This is not what I expected. Gloom and doom have been banished from the chemo ward. It is positively inspirational.

My nurse does whatever nurses do with IVs but not before she loosely lectures me on the possible side effects of my treatment. However, with each potential problem, she also offers a solution, ranging from “call CCI (Clearview Cancer Institute) immediately” to “take medicine X.” It’s all so reassuring. She’s as confident as a Super Bowl favorite in January. 
This is not what I expected. Gloom and doom have been banished from the chemo ward. It is positively inspirational.Of course, there are other challenges besides the treatments. The pills! Boy, do we take pills! By the handful! Every morning, while sleep still clouds my vision and unsettles my balance, I roll out of bed and bring to my bedroom an 8-ounce glass of water. I’d rather it be champagne, but the International Pill Manual says “8-Ounce Glass of Water.” So, no champagne.

Carefully, I sort through my bag of pill bottles and select the “morning” pills. I put them aside (there ought to be a cancer rehab curriculum for this) and then select one of each to ingest as I down my eight ounces of champagne-less fluid. This simple procedure usually goes smoothly unless the cat, on silent paws, enters the room, jumps in the bed, and mixes up the bottles, or worse, scatters all the pills. A frequent problem which they also ought to address in rehab – pills in the bed, pills on the floor, pills gone missing.

Life is full of challenges. The chemo-scene and the “little c” are just two of many. And at my cancer center, these challenges fade into hope. Just another hill to climb.

The absence of fear and misery that struck me when I first entered the chemo ward was remarkable. This I promptly pointed out to my nurse. She was quick to reply, shedding light on a complex situation with one simple word: “Hope!” The cancer that laid the previous generation to rest (and many generations before) had loosened its grip on the human body because of medical advancements. And one of those advancements is the ever-improving chemo treatments that I now employ. As cancer survivors today, we have HOPE – a crucial ingredient of healing. 


Ted Roberts is a cancer survivor living in Huntsville, AL. Known as The Scribbler on the Roof, Ted is a syndicated humor columnist whose work has been published in newspapers and magazines nationwide.

This article was published in
Coping® with Cancer magazine, January/February 2019.