Our regional cancer center is a sprawling, sun-filled building staffed with a group of caring professionals. Though designed to serve the needs of cancer patients from a large area of southwest Florida, the facility also treats many chronic problems dealing with issues ranging from osteoporosis to anemia.
It's my long-standing anemia that brings me to this remarkable medical establishment every three months for a B12 injection to crank up my blood-making engine.
I've provided that background to help you understand the memorable experience I had last week in this setting.
Each time I enter the cancer center, I'm struck by the steady stream of people - including me - who check in, then wait patiently for their name to be called. Normally, the center tends to be a quiet, almost somber, place. Everywhere you go in the building, conversations are muted, people are reading or talking in hushed tones with their companions. There's very little interaction among this diverse group of patients.
At least that was the usual atmosphere. But last week, as I sat in the small pre-treatment waiting room, a perky young blonde came in and stood in the middle of the seated group. Of course, everyone looked up.
She introduced herself as Jean and said, "I have something for each of you from my mother."
Jean explained that some years ago her mom, Dorothy, was a busy bank manager, responsible for the activities and staff of one of the area's largest bank branches. But then it all changed. Dorothy was diagnosed with cancer.
Jean said her mother had gone through a long and grueling course of chemotherapy and, eventually, was declared in remission.
A few years later, Jean herself faced the same diagnosis and treatment. And, fortunately, she too beat the disease and is now cancer free.
But before long, Dorothy's cancer returned.
"So right now, Mom's in the treatment room, taking her chemotherapy," Jean said.
Then Jean showed us the small container she was carrying.
"My mom, who continues to thrive on hope and love, wants me to give each of you something special from her," she said. "These are magic bracelets."
With that, Jean went around the room and placed on the wrist of each patient a small, tubular bracelet filled with day-glow fluid. The colors - bright pinks, blues, orchids, greens - seemed to glow with some inner force.
"Mom says these bracelets will bring each of you a good day. And," she said with a wink," they allow you to have a second dessert tonight at suppertime."
By the time Jean had passed out her glowing little gifts, the formerly-muted waiting room was filled with conversation and laughter.
Folks who had been quietly reading were now comparing backgrounds and hometowns with each other. The mood that had once been close to somber was now joyful.
As each patient was called into the treatment room, they went with a smile and were given encouraging comments from the others in the group.
When it came my turn to follow the nurse for my B12 injection, I looked back and Jean was making the rounds of those still waiting, giving each of them one of her glowing magic bracelets.
Chances are I'll never see Jean again. But as I write this piece, my magic bracelet is still glowing on my wrist, reminding me to focus on hope and love no matter what challenges life brings my way.