I am sitting in an orientation meeting for an exercise program, the joint research project of the local cancer center and the university to determine—I’m not sure what: whether exercise improves our ability to survive cancer? Whether it improves the side effects from cancer like muscle loss, loss of appetite, depression? I am thinking that the grad student conducting the meeting has no idea how to talk to a roomful of chemo brains. Maybe SHE has chemo brain, although that seems farfetched: she appears to be far too young and fit for cancer to bother with. I suspect my companion, Linda, is missing half of what the young woman is blathering on about; I know I am.
The young woman is talking about how we will be randomly placed into different groupings for the purposes of scientific research – the maintenance group, the intervention group, and the weightless. Hmmm. Weightless. I picture myself floating up above myself, free of gravity but gently stopped in my ascent by the room’s ceiling. From up there I can see myself fidgeting down below, while Linda is asking “but are you going to study cognitive improvement? That should be in the grant too.” We suspect we are the only glioblastoma patients in the room; Linda has survived six years while I am a relative newbie.
Linda’s question trips up the young woman and she loses her place on her outline. When she finds it again, we learn that we will all be pre-tested and then post-tested for certain abilities: how far we can walk around the track within six minutes; what our fat to muscle ratio is; the strength of our grip. After that, I lose my grip on what she’s talking about. I still can’t figure out what the weightless group is for. Linda whispers to me that she is worried she’ll be put into the control group, the group that doesn’t exercise at all so the research has a baseline for comparison.
Suddenly my brain clears and I blurt out “oh, you mean wait list, not weightless.” I enunciate the distinction in my finest English professor voice but the young woman appears flustered by my epiphany. Thank goodness I get several laughs from the back row of my fellow chemo brains. I turn to them and say, “there’s gotta be a poem in here somewhere,” and they smile and nod.
So, here it is:
I am on the wait list for becoming weightless.
In fact, we all are.