If you haven't spent any time at the Peoria Cancer Center, you may imagine a place filled with the sadness of disease and a sense of hospital starkness. Before my grandpa's experience with cancer, my imagination wandered to the scenes on Parenthood and Christine's fight against Breast Cancer--steril rooms and utilitarian furniture serving people who were living on prayer.
However, the center in Peoria could not be further from this bleak painting. The staff is composed of some of the most cheerful and upbeat people I have ever encountered; from nurses to volunteers, there is no shortage of smiles. The waiting rooms are filled with people boldly facing disease and their family and friends cheering them onto health.
Monday's visit to the Center was a particularly important one--after six rounds of Chemotherapy and one of radiation, we would learn the results of my grandfather's most recent CT scan and how effective the treatment had been. Battling an aggressive type of Lung Cancer, that had drained him of energy and robbed most of his hair, he was ready for good news.
Unusually busy, the seats in the waiting room buzzed with upbeat conversation, distracting us from the anxiousness pulsing in the back of our minds. Well and the diversion of Candy Crush.
Though we waited for an hour and a half for the nurse to call my grandpa back, when she finally did we were completely unprepared, jumping from our seats and gathering our things like we had been told to evacuate.
Then the real waiting began. Once in the examination room, the seconds crawled by with painful slowness. When the doctor entered the room and sat down at his computer, I'm certain time all but stopped.
Dr. Thomas scrolled though my grandfather scan results for what seemed like an eternity and the click cliiiick cliiiick clickclickclick of the mouse filled the excruciating silence of the room, as the Rorchach test like photos morphing again and again, revealed nothing to my untrained eye and I think. For as long as we sat there, no one let go of their breath. Actually just reliving the minutes has my heart pounding through my chest all over again.
YOU'RE ALL CLEAR, GARY.
While it could have been the lack of oxygen to my brain, those words spun the room.
The cancer is gone.
The inexplicable joy that filled my entire body flowed down my face, and I felt the heavy dread of the past few months vanish, replaced with sheer bliss. I'm not even sure my feet were touching the floor.
I don't remember what the doctor said after that, except that Grandpa had done a great job and he would see him in three months. I wanted to hug that man and scream my gratitude, but all I could manage to mutter was a thank you.
As we left the office and passed through the waiting room, still completely full of other patients waiting for treatment, visits with their doctors and the words we just heard, Grandpa stopped to share his results with an old friend who is fighting his own battle. "It's gone. The cancer is gone." And I watched as thumbs rose in the air, and felt the sincerity of their shared joy.
A moment frozen in time. And in my little corner of the world, we are celebrating.