The Blue Sweater

One of the things I am learning as I continue on this Unexpected Journey is to look for patterns of side-affects as I go through chemotherapy. In the beginning, it was all unknown. What would be my side-effects?  I read up on what to expect, but not everyone experiences the same thing. There were so many variables. So I sort of gave up trying to anticipate what was coming and just live it out. Now that I have passed the halfway mark, patterns have emerged and I am beginning to be able anticipate what will probably happen in the course of the treatment and be ready.

One of the side-effects comes just a couple of days before I start the next treatment. The side-effect is what I guess you’d call the blues.

I’ve had times of feeling sad and even deep sadness and grief, but this was different. This was a sadness that hung around like a fog for several days without lifting. It was exhausting. And there was always a sense that maybe this time it won’t go away.

I’ve been experiencing “the blues” this week. Usually when I feel this way I stay close to home. To smile, to just be myself even takes effort. I don’t want to be plastic, fake, but I don’t want to be rude either. So I stay close to home.

Today, however,  I had a doctor’s appointment. I had to get dressed up, put on all the warm layers, the hat, the scarf, the gloves and face the world.

It was not a day to hide.

My sister-in-law Luanne dropped me off at the door of the building where my doctor has his offices and went off in search of parking. I thought maybe being outside in the fresh air and just walking about would help lift my mood, but I just felt so sad.

Sort of like this:


When I reached the waiting room of my doctor’s office I sat down in one the chairs and waited.

Luanne arrived a short time later. I had told her of my struggles this week with the blues and she was doing what she could to lift my spirits. Great friend! But it took such effort even to smile.

Another fellow patient arrived and came into the waiting room to find a seat. He was alone. I always have Luanne or my brother John with me when I go to appointments and I wondered how it was for him to be there all alone.

It was difficult to know his age, he could be younger than me or he could be older or may be just looked older because of the treatments. His clothes were a bit too big for him which gave him a bit of disheveled look. But he also wore a beautiful blue sweater that looked new and fresh. Luanne greeted him and complimented him on his blue sweater.

He immediately brightened up and began to talk. I could tell from his accent he must be from the Caribbean. He too had been feeling sad today. A kindred spirit, I thought. And then he told us the story of the blue sweater.

He was out getting his hair cut at a local shop. He had just found out that he had cancer and he was devastated. A woman was also in the shop —someone he recognized from the office where he worked, but she was in a different department. She saw that he was tearful and came over and asked him what was wrong. He told her of his diagnosis. She asked him if he had anyone to go with him to his appointments and he said no. So she said she would go with him. And so she did. But not just one appointment, but every appointment he’d had over the last several years. The blue sweater was her Christmas gift to him.

“She isn’t here now because she had to work today, but she always comes with me. She’s really like a gift from God,” he said.

I felt this warmth fill my heart. She was his gift, but as I listened to him tell the story of this woman’s unselfish care for another person that at that time she hardly knew, steadfast care over the years and the gift of this blue sweater that meant so much to him—it was I who now was the recipient of a gift: his story of the blue sweater.

Yes, we may call it the blues, but this story of such a consistent act of kindness and of the joy it brought him as he recounted the story and also remembered the gift he had received brought me out of my own blues. The fog lifted.

“Thank you for sharing your testimony,” I said to him. “It has blessed me so very much.” And he beamed.