Helpless and Powerless, Save for a Hummingbird

My Mother’s First Chemo Experience

(Photo By Author)

Two years ago, my mother would walk into the Allan Blair Cancer Clinic in Regina, Saskatchewan to undergo her first chemo treatment. She had a preliminary cancer diagnosis two weeks previous that was considered “serious”, but deemed “manageable”.

When she first entered the patient’s area, she started to tear up because this was a replay of 2009 when my father would be a regular visitor here. It brought back some painful memories of the last year with him and how things had ended. It seemed like it was now her turn to enter into the same fate.

Because of all this swirling in her head, she was unable to focus. She went to hold her cup of water, tipped it over, and spilled it all over the floor. She apologized repeatedly to the nursing staff, held her hands to her face, and sobbed. I put my hand on mom’s shoulder and told her it’s not a big deal, that it’s just a cup of water, and a towel would easily remedy the situation.

But it wasn’t about the cup of water; it was about being powerless and helpless.

In the midst of all this, we were bombarded with copious amounts of information. We might as well have heard the “beep beep beep” of a backup alarm as it felt like a truck descending upon us and dumping the information at our feet. So much information! Too much at once.

In contrast to all the overwhelming information, there were many smaller bright spots. This was a day that felt like it had a dark cloud hanging over it; the impending long, hard struggle that was before us. However, among the ominous, there were smiling volunteers who came by with coffee and treats, all of whom had encouraging things to say. It turns out, almost all of them were cancer survivors who were giving back to the clinic that saved or prolonged their lives. Some of them were still looking down the barrel of their mortality, and yet they still gave back by helping others who were just starting down their journey.

I could see the hope in mom’s eyes as they came by to offer encouragement. I could see that she could envision herself in their position one day, giving back because she survived. Maybe she could beat this!

With each smile, we were given gifts like a hand-made pillowcase and “get well” cards. One such gift item was a hand-carved hummingbird. It was created by a local cancer survivor who felt it was his duty to give back in the only way he could. It is just something he does in his spare time. It is an anonymous gift in some ways.

The card that came with it reads, “Legends say that hummingbirds float free of time, carrying our hopes for love, joy, and celebration. The hummingbird’s delicate grace reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning and that laughter is life’s sweetest creation.”

As it turned out, the majority of what we would receive that day would prove to be an exercise in futility as, just seven days later, mom would receive the news that her cancer was no longer deemed “manageable” but “terminal”.

We would return to the clinic a few more times over the next three months where we’d still see the smiling faces offering the same encouragement regardless of the dire fate. They were the beams of light as we walked down a dark corridor towards our destiny.

While we were increasingly helpless and powerless, each visit to the Allan Blair Cancer Clinic was like the hummingbird — floating free of time, carrying hope, love, and celebration. Despite everything, we would learn that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, and laughter is life’s sweetest creation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *