On Compromise

November 30, 2021

Reflections, Day 50

“No relationship is perfect, ever. There are always some ways you have to bend, to compromise, to give something up in order to gain something greater…The love we have for each other is bigger than these small differences. And that’s the key. It’s like a big pie chart, and the love in a relationship has to be the biggest piece. Love can make up for a lot.”
― Sarah Dessen, The Lullaby

At the Emory Cancer Center, there is a place called “The Infusion Lab.” It’s a big room, light and cheerful. There are a number—maybe twelve or more—of very comfortable reclining couches, and the staff goes to great lengths to make the patients comfortable. On my first day of chemo infusion, I approached the room with some trepidation. The wonderful people were ready for that, and they took care of me. I was shown to one of the couches and two nurses verified my name and the treatment. The treatment was double and triple checked for accuracy.

The day before, I had had a “port” inserted into a vein in my arm. This was sort of like a speaker jack on a stereo that could be used over and over so that I wouldn’t end up with needle tracks all over my arm. Everything was sanitized, I was given a dose of Benadryl through the port that would keep me from having an allergic reaction, then the IV needle was inserted into the port and I laid my head on the pillow while someone covered me with a heated blanket. The glow of the benadryl was pleasant and I got sleepy.

But before I fell asleep, I noticed a lady being set up in the recliner next to me. She was wearing a hand-knitted toboggan. I thought, “Poor girl, she’s sensitive about the loss of her hair.” Later, I realized the error of my judgmental conclusion. I learned after a couple of visits that the lady didn’t care about her hair—or about what anyone thought—she was just plain COLD.

Some of the chemo treatments taught me about a different kind of cold. It was a bone-chilling cold. And the thing is, after the treatments were finished, after the cancer was gone, after my hair had grown back out, after a number of years—the cold remained. That’s why, you’ll see me, to this day, 9 years later, wearing a heavy sweater and a hat when others are walking around in short sleeved shirts. I’m not complaining, just explaining. The chemo substance may have left me cold, but it also kept me alive and I have enjoyed the last ten years immensely.

But during the winter, inside our house, what’s comfortable for me is oppressively warm for my lovely wife. We argued at first over the thermostat, but then we reached an agreement: “She has complete control of the thermostat and the indoor temperature except for when I take a shower.

And for me? I have a space heater that blows under my desk and a heating pad on the back of my desk chair. This is my space and it makes me happy without inconveniencing anyone else.

Sweetie calls it my “Cocoon.”

—john schulz

Power to the patient

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