The sound of an ending

Day 2 of the last round of the 6 chemo treatments:

The combo of chemo and anxiety is a lethal one. Not drop dead lethal. Mini-lethal. Cry-just-because lethal. I was never going to OD with one extra Ondansetron anti-nausea pill, but things can go wrong when you get all worked up.

It’s recommended you take the pill an hour before chemo, but in the cancer treatment waiting game, planning for 60 minutes before anything is almost impossible. I stuck the plastic vial in my bag before leaving the house, and kept pulling it out en route to the hospital, contemplating whether the time was right. But each time I looked at it, I couldn’t remember if I’d taken one the last time I’d pulled it out.

I was in the back seat of my dad’s car, my parents in the front. They’ve been driving me to chemo for the past 6 months. I’m so grateful.

It makes me feel like a kid again. Not in that carefree, do-what-I-ask and don’t–care-whether-it-puts-anyone-out, kind of way, but in an against-my-will dependent, stuck-in-the-back-seat-of-your-parents-car-going-somewhere-you-didn’t-choose kind of way. It makes me feel like a kid again in that way.

All through my childhood, I’d beg them to pick me up from the subway, even though it wasn’t that far. They’d often make me walk, and all I’d feel bad about was the quarter I’d wasted on the pay phone. Now, when I call from Lymphomaland, I'm needy. They never say no. They show up at my house in downtown Toronto at 7:30am. They drive me back up, past their place to the hospital further north.

I’s a Lexus now, not an Oldsmobile.

I’m counting the pills in the back seat – again. 1, 2, 3. “I can’t remember if I took one.”  My mother looks at me, helpless. She and my father want to help with everything. But so many things here can't be helped.

Did I take it yet? Did I take it?

I ask one of the chemo intake nurses, to confirm what I am incapable of knowing I know. I hadn’t yet taken it.

“So I have three. This is my second day. That means one right now, one tonight and one tomorrow, right?”

“I’ll check your chart. Is this your first treatment?”

“No, it’s my last one.”


A day earlier - Day 1 of the last round of the 6 chemo treatments:

Tears, there too.

Discombobulation reigned. I’m used to waiting. For this last round, however, it felt insulting. Not that I deserved special treatment ahead of everyone else simply because I was preparing to cross the finish line. But something like that.

I waited 1 ¾ hrs before they called me in. There was everything and nothing to cry about. My friend Ingrid suggested an Ativan. I fished through a small flowered tin container, much of the floral pattern now rubbed away from the friction of years in my purse. A few whole pills lay on top of some powdered remnants of Neurontin, Tylenol, Robaxacet and Naproxen. I took what looked the most like an Ativan.

The End

It’s OVER. For now anyway. The beepity beep, a sound perhaps unique to the conclusion of an IV chemo bag, beeped the end of my 6 months. My mom was poised with my iPhone to catch the noise on video, followed by me saying something profound, like This is the sound of an ending. Instead, more tears and nothing at all articulate.

That’s ok. In this case, an ending's an ending. No Take 2, thanks.



Dear Aviva, congratulations on finishing your chemo! I hope you are feeling well today. I have been following your blog since you published your first article on cancer several weeks ago. I have also had a recent cancer experience, though I am fine for the moment (knock on wood). I feel that I can relate to you in so many ways - from always having chased an imaginary tumour through my body, to parenting, to writing for comfort (I have been blogging at, to trying to read that horrible meditation book (btw, I found that a singing bowl helped me to meditate because then you can concentrate on a very soothing sound) to the Ativan, and on and on. I love reading your blog, and following how you are doing. I wish 50+ years of remission! Take care, Mausumi


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