There is dancing today in the radiation waiting room. Upright and youthful-looking despite his lined face, the smiling man jitterbugs with any woman who accepts his courteously offered hand.
The music he provides by way of a small radio, turned low so as not to disturb those who would rather be quiet as they wait for their treatments.
Patients are used to him, enjoying the way he expresses his love of life in his movements to the music of the '50s and '60s — his day.
Radiation treatments generally are given five days a week for several weeks, so people get to know one another while they're waiting for their treatment, coming as they do at much the same hour each day. They pass through here by the dozens to the seven treatment rooms, the procedure itself taking mere seconds.
In they go and out they come, hopefully with any trace of cancer left after chemotherapy and surgery zapped away so that it will never emerge again.
The dancing man leaves the waiting area and the swing dancing stops. Now another fellow brings out his harmonica.
The plaintive music sounds softly through the room, and again, the tunes are of a past time. I am guessing it is the '40s, when ballads, every word clear and easily understood, filled the airwaves. Other people in the room know these songs and they sing along, their voices low.
Cancer, to judge by these patients, seems to attack the old rather than the young, although a few fresh-faced women also await their turn, scarves artfully covering their heads, their hair lost to chemo. Other young women accompany mothers and grandmothers, some of whom are so frail they are brought in riding wheelchairs.
And cancer seems to attack far more women than men here, although a few men also sit and wait for their treatments. Most of the women have — they would prefer to say "had" — breast cancer. Lumpectomies or mastectomies removed the growths. The radiation is seen as insurance, leaving no stone unturned.
The woman opposite turns to me. "I wasn't sure I would opt for radiation but the doctor said, 'You don't want the problem to return in 10 or 15 years or so.' I laughed at him. 'You must expect me to live to 103,' I said. 'Absolutely,' he answered. 'Why not?' "
She smiled. "Why not, indeed?"
There is little self-pity here. The women chat. No one talks of illness. Hope prevails.
Morris (www.monicabmorris.com) has three grown children and lives with her husband in Hollywood. Her best pleasure is to walk around Hollywood Lake and chat with the deer. She is just ending a course of radiation therapy — as insurance! — after out-patient surgery for a ductal carcinoma. She is feeling just fine.
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