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  • For the past eight days I have been a tourist at the Community Cancer Center in Gainesville. I do not have cancer. A bout with severe anemia necessitated an iron transfusion, and I’ve been coming back for follow-up blood tests ever since. The news has been good.

    The staff treats me with what appears to be an extra measure of cheer and humor. I’d like to chalk it up to my charm, but I think it’s because I’m the healthiest patient they’ve seen in quite a while. Every other person I’ve seen in a chair has been getting chemo. I’ve come to know them, the bald ladies in their oversized hats, the expatriate from Mumbai, the man whose tattoos make it hard to find a good vein. Across from me yesterday an old man received his first treatment. His wife and daughter accompanied him and told the nurse they had no idea what to do or how to act. They were told they’d be able to watch a video later. For now they adopt an air of forced levity that fools no one. “We’re going to spoil you today,” the wife sings to her man. “But don’t count on it every day,” the daughter chimes in.

    I search their faces for signs of resentment against the lucky stiff who’s got mere anemia. They’re too withdrawn into their own world to notice or care. The nurses are models of compassion. Helpless family members attempt to be towers of strength. I am moved beyond my ability to conjure up words, but I also know that I have drawn the long straw this time and I am grateful to a knee-buckling degree.

    (Thanks to Kelly Mason)
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