Sights, sounds and memories

Back in March, I wrote about my annual check-up and the inevitable fears and worries that day can bring. I wrote also about the power of the sights and smells of the hospital to bring back all those memories of diagnosis, doctors, chemo, blood tests. Re-reading Lance Armstrong’s “Every Second Counts”, I see that this is a common feeling among cancer survivors.

“Each time I visited the hospital” he writes “I had an uneasy reaction. The first thing that struck me is the smell. If I did a smell test, I could find the hospital with my eyes closed: disinfectant, medicine, bad cafeteria food, and recycled air through old vents…the sounds were artificial and grating…these are the odors and sensations and images that all cancer patients carry with them no matter how far removed they are from the disease, and they are so traumatic, so concentrated, that they can bring about reactions years afterward.”

Do you find yourself having a similar reaction when you enter hospitals, or smell a certain smell, hear a certain song? I had a beautiful jar of expensive lavender body lotion with me in hospital, one of my favourite brands, but now when I smell that body lotion I am transported right back to those post surgery days lying in my hospital bed, all hooked up to my drain, and I can never use it again. A certain song, which was popular at the time, played on the radio in the chemo ward, and of course if I hear it now on the radio, I am right back in there, waiting in that chair, the chemo dripping through the IV into my veins. Hats and scarves I wore during chemo, I should really send them to the charity store, for when I come across them in a drawer, I touch my head to make sure I still have hair, that is how visceral the feeling is. What about you? What are your stories?