SCENES FROM A SUPPORT GROUP
Story by Steve Spencer
STUTTGART, ARKANSAS. PRIVATE ROOM IN EL CANAVERAL MEXICAN GRILL. AFTER WORK. THE SECOND MONDAY NIGHT OF SEPTEMBER. EIGHTEEN WOMEN BETWEEN THE AGES OF 35 AND SOME NUMBER BIGGER THAN THAT BUT LET’S NOT GET TOO SPECIFIC ARE CASUALLY GATHERED AROUND THREE LONG TABLES PULLED TOGETHER…
CHEMOSABE SISTERS SCENE 1
JUDY: Sitting in a chemo chair for hours, some of the faces you see become familiar. You get acquainted. My Stuttgart friend was there every Friday, her bright shining bald head with pearl earrings.
KATHLEEN: I felt like there were things that I had not been told about all this and I wanted to talk to somebody who’s been through it. I called Kathy and said ‘we’re gonna get a list together.’ It took us, what, five minutes?
KATHY: Between her list and mine we had 20 names. It just seems like so many people are going through this.
JUDY: If we could get together and trade stories, laugh, share concerns, get some sisterhood going –
KATHLEEN: I sent out a text to all 20 women and put my phone down to get ready for bed. Next thing I know my phone’s jumping all over the sink.
KATHY: DING DING DING DING –
KATHLEEN: I told Kathy ‘we’ve gone viral!’
JUDY: Starting the group was way easier than you could ever imagine.
KATHLEEN: Sara thought we needed a good name.
RENEE: And I sent out a text saying ‘I no longer feel like the Lone Ranger – I love my new Kemosabies!’
KATHLEEN: Christi made it a pun, making us ‘Chemosabe Sisters.’ Next thing you know Nancy’s doing t-shirts.
NEW BOWLS OF QUESO AND BASKETS OF CHIPS ARRIVE.
AMY: I was 29 the first time I got cancer. The only support group around, they were 80 and up. I couldn’t relate to their issues.
KATHLEEN: We talk about some really…
KATHY: Detailed –
KATHLEEN: Detailed stuff –
CHRISTY H.: Nipples!
KATHLEEN: Who all here has been bald?
SLIGHTLY MORE THAN HALF THE WOMEN RAISE A HAND.
AMY: The doctors are really empathetic – they do a great job – but it’s one thing to tell you the side effects you might experience and someone being able to tell you about the actual experience of the effects.
RENEE: They tell you you’re gonna be tired but this is a whole ‘nother kind of tired.
KATHLEEN: Like today, I was just kind of in a funk and Judy said ‘it’s your radiation funk.’
JUDY: Just when you think you’re alright, it sneaks up on you.
JOANN: This group is such a great mixture; all ages, all kinds of cancer.
RENEE: We’ve got all the bases covered; lung, breast, colon, ovarian, skin, you name it – we’ve had it.
CHRISTI: So I’ve gotten through all the chemo and the radiation and had both breasts removed and…
A MOMENT WHERE THE ROOM DOESN’T STIR.
CHRISTI (continued): We found some more lymph nodes that were solid so I’m getting biopsied Thursday.
WILLIE AND DEBBIE MOVE IN CLOSER TO HOLD HANDS WITH CHRISTI.
CHRISTI: Before this group I didn’t feel like anybody really understood what I was going through.
JUDY: We’re going through the same things. I don’t even have to say anything.
KATHLEEN: When she gets quiet I know she needs a text or a note.
RENEE: A card, a gift, a meal –
MISTI: It is amazing what one little sticky note, on a car window, can mean to someone.
AMY: Just… to validate that what we’re feeling is normal because someone else in the group has probably already gone through it.
KATHLEEN: When any one of us has a scan, a big test or procedure, we do a mass text and everybody prays for each other.
KATHY: You’re not alone.
KATHLEEN: It makes your heart smile when you see those text prayers coming through.
MISTI: If you do something for someone else that brings them joy an added benefit is that that little bit of time you’re not thinking about you and your cancer.
CHRISTI: I know I can count on my sisters here. My Chemosabe Sisters.
JUDY: I sure hope our mission can grow and grow.
KATHLEEN: Every time we turn around someone new is joining the group.
JUDY: For the unmeasurable benefit, I still can’t believe how ridiculously easy it was to get this whole thing started.
SARA: Once you learned how to text!
LAUGHTER TAKES OVER THE ROOM. A COUPLE OF MEMBERS TAKE THIS AS A CHANCE TO ACTUALLY TASTE THE FOOD ON THEIR PLATES.
Writer Steve Spencer felt like he had landed in a scene from a great play. Humor, emotion and friendship were on display, so he took the opportunity to share just one scene from his meeting with the Chemosabe Sisters.