They don’t really look all that different from any other doors, at any other hospital. Big glass pieces, pull them open. Get in from the wind.

It’s the entering through the doors that’s different. Those doors. I’ve entered that hospital a thousand times, but never there. It’s the damn stigma. It’s that word, “cancer.” Knowing the difference between what society has given us, cancer in all its terror, the scary, violent images (like “battling”) associated with it, and what my dad is going through, which has a high rate of survival and, as I’ve heard more times than I ever cared for, “it’s the best kind to get.” Well, thanks. How reassuring. Let it be known that saying to someone who has or is close to someone else who has prostate cancer, “well, that’s the best kind to get” is not helpful. And everyone says it. Please stop. Yeah, I know: you just said it’s different from cancer, that stigma. Bear with me. Life is not black and white, and it’s not easy to explain. But maybe, if you’re here, you understand.

Dad went first, for his appointment, and my brother, me, and my boyfriend followed for support. I got quiet, I was quiet all day. We found the right reception desk, and dropped him off. Then we grabbed breakfast and waited. There’s a nice, cheap cafeteria with a chipper cashier. None of us were all that hungry, but we had a few eggs, sausages, homefries. Bacon. Tea. We finished and walked back to the waiting room. There was a bookshelf of resources, for those going through cancer and their families. I hesitated, considered getting one down, but followed my brother and boyfriend to a little couch and chair area. After all, what would they be besides gushy repetitions of things I already knew, or the seven stages of grief: I needed neither. They’d either annoy me or put me into such a state of nervousness and fear that I’d be useless through the whole ordeal. Well, at least this one. Taking my dad to an appointment – one of several, one I can make it to. Not to mention the 63 consecutive radiation therapy sessions this summer. But I will be here, working my butt off, since that’s how my business must run its summer. Perhaps I can skip up for a weekend. I feel even more useless being far away. But what can I do, really? I can’t fight for him, stand in for him. I watch. I hug. I call. Mostly, I listen.

I sat down next to my brother on the couch and picked up The New Yorker, some old edition. I scanned it for the poems, a short story. Just waiting. My brother and I exchanged a few quiet words. I glanced up, often, at either of the hallways my dad was likely to come out of. When he did, we got up. Chris gave him a hug, told me to do the same. But a man sitting down caught sight of my dad’s jacket.

“Are you a firefighter, sir?”

Well, there was no stopping that. Blocked by another cancer patient. He’s in for a much rougher time than my dad. After, still somewhat blocked, I went up and at least awkwardly gave my dad a pat on the back.

After a swing by a coffee shop, we headed back the way we came. Outside the doors, the ones below the big white sign: Cancer Center. Someday, this year maybe, it will be the last time he has to walk through them. He will be walking. And on his way outside. No more meds. No more treatments. Cancer-free.

And we will buy him scotch and throw a party.

OK.

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