‘Tis’ the privilege of friendship to talk nonsense, and have her nonsense respected.’ – Charles Lamb, 17th century poet and essayist
The last couple of infusions have required a total of 10 steroid pills to be taken during the 18 hours before the infusion. This only happens the day before the infusion and David is so thankful. Here’s why.
After the first episode of steroid glut David asked if he could give me a signal while I was in the clinic that would indicate that I needed to take my enthusiasm and gregariousness down a notch. The signal would be a wink. I was all for this. I certainly didn’t want to add embarrassment to him or myself due to a steroid over-exuberance. I agreed to the signal and thought that we had worked out something very appropriate.
Then came the day of my second infusion. My system was flooded with steroids. Yippee! I knew I was walking the knife edge between friendly and inappropriate but I was having way too much fun yucking it up with everybody…….and I mean everybody. Pity the stranger who just happened to look my way as I wanted them to become my new best friend. I knew if I looked at David’s face it would be winking away so I made a conscious decision to not look at him. What did he know?
Perhaps you are curious what my opening liners were to try to engage my new best friends?
“Hi there (lady sitting in waiting room), you have a really nice tan. I mean it; a really pretty tan. But are you supposed to? Aren’t we instructed to avoid the sun while on chemo? Tip: start with a complement but end with a friendly helpful admonition or criticism.
Our conversation ended up being shorter than I would have liked.
Next attempt to make new best friends.
“Hi, I remember you guys from two weeks ago. You are the friendly volunteers who carry around the goody cart.” (So far so good).
Then David said hi, too, but called one of them by the wrong name, or so I thought. Apparently steroids make one’s thoughts the rule of the land. I drew attention to the fact that David had called the woman by her wrong name. We argued about that in front of the volunteers. I tried to enlist the volunteers to take my side. They said they were instructed not to get in the middle of family disagreements.
The goodie cart rolled away sooner than I would have liked.
The infusion center at the cancer institute is huge with 36 infusion chairs or beds. I decided I would visit all 35 of my chemo brothers and sisters. I told David I was going to the bathroom and would take my IV pole with me and wouldn’t need his help getting there. I wandered the aisles to see if there was anybody I recognized from my previous visits. Bingo! I quickly engaged a friendly and talkative 80 year old something patient that I had met the previous week. Cruising and talking was great. Eventually David and my infusion nurse found me and semi-dragged me back to my cubicle.
Friendly 80-year-old and I could have talked longer. She was probably on steroids too.
Back home and coming down from steroid exuberance I began to think about the awkward side of friendliness amongst strangers. I searched the Net to read what not to say to people while seated next to them on a plane, clinic, or any other waiting area. Here are some ‘pick-up or hi-ya’ questions I hope to avoid asking at my next infusion:
“What do you do about rectal itch?”
“Does this look malignant to you?”
“Want to see something really weird?”
All steroid frolics aside:
A little bit of steroids are great. We all know of their anti-inflammability benefits. A one-time mega dose of steroids is one thing but I hope that those of you that must take steroids long-term and experience the adverse side-effects read this blog post for what it is.
There is good research touting the health benefits of connecting with strangers “appropriately” (benefits for you and benefits for them). We just need to be willing to take a risk. It is both spiritual (God created community), emotional/mental and organic. New human connections boost oxytocin and serotonin, which are biochemicals that build our immune system, improve mood and bond us with others.
So, I’ll see you out there making new best friends. And don’t forget to smile (see blog post entitled, ‘Duchennes Smiles Only, Please’).