16 unavoidable shots of chemotherapy doses in seven months. That is the obligatory time I have had to meet the professionals who work on the third floor at the back of the Insular Hospital. These are the months in which I have traveled that long corridor to find myself in the round room, in the cubicle of the landscape painting, on the kick table. In that repetitive appointment I have met them: the professionals of the Attic of the Chemo.
From the first day I have tried to remember each name of the people who have treated me, but it has been impossible because of the chemistry and fatigue. That will leave me frustrated because each one deserves to be remembered by name. What I will never forget, neither in this nor in my second life, is their professionalism, their patience, their dedication, their affection and that sacrificial human quality for which they are not paid. All of them, without exceptions.
I can’t remember most of the names, but I’ve managed to retain a few that represent each and every one of you, including you, Aris, the only male nurse on the floor.
Starting with Naima. My first nurse, my first chutera. The one who welcomed me on behalf of all of you. Fundamental in my entry. Naima represents them all when, after putting an immense gadget called a catheter into my torso, not without pain, of course, she waited for me on my stretcher to gently and patiently indicate the steps that she would repeat for seven months. The young Naima, who with only her gaze and half covered face shows all her beauty. Sensitive, respectful, patient, emotional and extremely professional. This is how Naima showed herself when she realized my ignorance and clumsiness as a rookie when I entered that oval of stretchers decorated with sunsets, sunrises and always-off TV screens. Naima accompanied me on a few chutes until she was transferred to another plant. What anger and grief his absence produced in me! Naima is the representation of the improved humanity with the mixture of three cultures: the Moroccan, the Spanish and the Canarian. It is the solution and the hope of coexistence in this world.
They were followed by Vicky, Miriam, Nuria … and Virginia. Virginia has reflections on her body of what really matters in life: loyalty and love for life, people, our people. In the absence of Naima, Virginia became that face she sought for reference when she arrived at the door of the shooting room. I forced her to promise me that she would not leave that plant, as if it depended on her, until I finished my tax and my own contract. And it did not go away. Virginia has a laugh that hooks and gives life and a charmed and silent intelligence. I share anecdotes with her and she has the generosity to also give me hers. His joy, closeness, emotionality and resilience – like one of his tattoos – does not conflict at all with his extreme attention in every step he takes to inject the tururu bags (the happy sound of the dose machines that surrounds every corner of the room ).
Paqui. Maturity, seriousness, joker when you least expect it and deeply compassionate. One of the veterans. Hidden sweetness because of the ridiculous self-imposed rule to keep distances and try to avoid breaking into pieces with the pain of others. I sense that she does not succeed, neither she nor anyone else, because they all know that we need her warmth as if it were oxygen. Paqui gives warmth. “You’re staying with me today,” Paqui tells me when I can’t find Virginia, as if that’s a problem. And I laugh inside because what I feel is relief knowing that I will continue to be cared for, loved, protected, listened to and cared for as every day that I have entered that room. Every day, without exceptions.
Marine. The first to learn my name before I even finished walking down that long corridor of chutes. He goes from here to there with gossip in his hands and always has time to chat with me for a little while, attend to me, give me something to soothe, feed, distract or comfort me. With that look so clean and intense that reminds me so much of her sister. Marina represents all the assistants who go from here to there with trinkets in their hands, caring for and assisting colleagues and patients.
In 16 shots and seven months, the professionals of the Insular Onco-Hematology Day Hospital have laughed at my jokes and ironies, they have endured my battles even if they were repeated, they have admired my henna tattoos on my bald head, they have wrapped me up, They have filled me with juices, cakes with butter and jam, they have waited for my clumsy and slow steps, they have observed my silences with compassion, they have veiled my sleep, they have listened to my pain, they have pressed the alarm button when they have noticed some anomaly during treatment, and I have always been greeted and dismissed with a smile. And never, never, never have they allowed themselves to have a bad day out of respect for me and for everyone who walks into the room that reminds us of the pain that we are going to suffer.
They represent all my chuteras. All, without exceptions, all have shown, together with their serious and difficult task, respect, extreme attention, understanding, intention, empathy, affection and closeness. And for all this they are not paid.
Not a single day after finishing my dose have I left that room sad, hopeless or uncomfortable, and less in a bad mood. Not a single day. No one will be able to imagine how important each one has been so that this did not happen. Not one will be able to imagine how fundamental the existence of each one in this world has been in this vital moment of my life. Not one can conceive how essential it has been for me.
So many names that I would like to remember. Like Vanesa’s, who gave me one more day to celebrate my birthday without pain and who changed my shooting day so that I was more comfortable. The fast-paced blonde who is not on that floor, but is the familiar face of the week that reminds me by my first and last name every time I go to the blood test to tell me there is less left. The energetic blonde Nicole who gave me the biscuit bread because she knows I love it. The stranger who gave me the catheter protectors down the hall because I had forgotten them. The one who tried by all means not to wait in a chair for more than necessary. The guards who took me from here to there, whom I have called Goliath and Goliath, who greet me at my medical appointments with the joy of seeing me. María and Paqui, my favorites from the dating rooms that have made me feel so special, so VIP, as they call me.
My doctors: Víctor Vega and Elisenda Llabrés. With whom I am indebted for life, no matter how long it lasts. For his professionalism, honesty, attention, security, seriousness and concern. Of which I trust one hundred percent.
I am not special. I am one more patient who has spent seven months and 16 shots on the third floor of the Insular. Fortunately, they are. All, without exception, who express themselves with a big smile in a covered mouth. And that’s why they don’t get paid.
I only have sincere and eternal words of gratitude to all of them because in one of the most important stages of my life they have made me feel that I was respected, protected, cared for and loved. And that’s why they don’t get paid.
To all, Thanks a thousand!