People squished in an elevator

My Chemo Routine & the Darn Elevators

Those of us who have had the unbridled pleasure of going through chemo know that after the first session or two, you develop a routine. Just like making your favorite dish, shaving in the morning, or re-putting the pots and pans away in correct size order because we’re not animals. (Big pan on top of little pan? Really? Heathens.) So, we settle into a way of doing things that pretty much remains the same throughout. Routines bring us comfort, and if there’s a time when comfort is needed more than during chemo, I can’t think of one offhand. Maybe something with lions? The point is, we control what we can since the blood cancer isn’t something we can easily bend to our will, and anything that breaks that routine can be annoying. Just like the three elevators that took me to the chemo infusion floor.

Is the elevator always going down?

Those three elevators were the bane of my existence during chemo. They were always stuffed to the gills so thoroughly that someone would just randomly pop out when the doors opened like it was a giant one-armed-bandit and you just won a people. They were always full, all the time, even if they had just come from the basement, it was ridiculous. The basement? Really? Is the hospital running a perpetual ham radio convention? In addition, and I know this violates the laws of physics, but I swear that they were always going down. You’d hear a ding, step forward, and then, “ugh, going down.” Five minutes later, you’d hear a ding, step forward, and then, “going down… again? Weird.” Five minutes after that, you’d hear a ding, step forward, and then, “wait what? Going down again? The hell is going on here?” It’s true. It was like the Wonkavator from Hell and we were trapped in a chocolate factory built solely to annoy chemo patients. We didn’t even have those cute orange tiny people to sing us precautionary tales and do awkward somersaults. Then again, we already had cancer, so the whole cautionary ship had probably sailed at that point, but whatever, I digress. The point is, these three elevators were always the bottleneck in the “real chemo experience” amusement park ride that was my life for fifty weeks.

Does this elevator smell funny?

When we did happen to make our way onto the elevator and past the sign that said, “you must be this cancerous to ride,” it was always full – full to the point where you definitely have to touch another person. Yeech. People. Am I Right? You get in and you know the type of elevator fullness I mean – the one where you are going to have your personal space invaded and there’s no way around it. On top of that, there wasn’t a single time that I can remember when the elevator car didn’t have an aroma wafting around that could legitimately be called a war crime. Cologne and aftershave was a big one. With chemo, my spidey-smell-sense was constantly tingling, and I always got saddled with the guy from the 1970s who bathed in Aqua Velva. I mean, really guy? A little dab’ll do ya. Another one was food. Apparently there was a stand in or near the hospital that only served two things: onion and garlic casserole with a side of anchovies, and dog hair flambé. If that doesn’t paint a picture of the olfactory nightmare that always seemed to squirt its way onto the lift, then I don’t know what will.

Why does the person in the back ALWAYS get off first?

Lastly is something that happens to everyone who rides elevators, not just chemo patients, to be fair. It just annoys us more. When riding up the three floors, aka two stops, it never failed that someone all the way in the back of the elevator needed to get off. Yeah, let me say it again. Someone who got on the car at the first floor, was buried in the back of the car by the time the lift got to the next floor. How does that happen? Can someone please explain it to me? If you get on a full elevator, and then almost immediately get off, how do you end up behind more people than it takes to fill a soccer field? It’s not like they were tiny slippery people who covered themselves in oil and quickly squiggled to the back of the elevator, they were regular, un-lubricated people of average size. I’d like to think I’d have notice a little greased up person invading my personal space, you know, I’m kind of observant like that. Still, the elevator would stop and you’d hear that lone voice from the back, “this is my stop.” In unison, the rest of the car would GROAAANNNNNN, and then file out the door. From the outside, it must have looked like the most depressing clown car in existence had just pulled up. People with no hair, people with limps, people in wheelchairs, people with IV’s behind them, people in surgical masks – we just kept coming and coming. It was like a Carnival cruise ship of the infirmed had just made port from the Isle of Broken Toys. Look, here’s a tip, folks. If you know you are going to have to get off in a floor or two, stay to the front of the elevator. “First out? Last in.” Got it? I feel like that’s a core principal of the societal elevator contract we all accept when pressing the call button. It shouldn’t be difficult to execute, but apparently, some people didn’t get the e-vite for the meeting about elevator etiquette. Instead, they practice “First out? Somehow zig-zag to the back and wrap yourself in a blanket of unsuspecting riders and then make them shuffle out like prisoners because, yeah, screw logic.” (They’re workshopping a better name.)

Can't have chemo without the elevators

Ah, those elevators. They were the last interruption of my routine I needed on those days when I really just wasn’t in the frame of mind to get chemo. Whatever your “elevator” was, you know how frustrating that could be and although we pushed through anyway, we certainly could have done it without it. And if you are one of those people who tosses elevator etiquette to the wind, well… I have one word. Stairs. Talk soon.

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