This one goes out to AnneMarie…
I lost my mind in 395 sq ft.
I checked under both beds, as my mom taught me to do before checking out of every hotel room of my childhood.
I pulled back the shower curtain, found my conditioner and comb, but no mind.
And for the next fifteen minutes I wandered around the room aimlessly in search of something. That’s how chemobrain works on the ground, at least for me. Yes – really – 15 minutes.
I’d spent the weekend at the Young Survival Coalition Annual Summit. Five years ago this was the first breast cancer advocacy conference I ever attended, and the first step on an incredible journey of advocacy. This year I got to attend on behalf of METAvivor, but also someone who has been where these young women are – charged and passionate and frustrated and angry and confused and, and, and….
I admittedly overdid it. But from early morning coffee, to late night dialogue, I had the incredible chance to listen to these women. I got to hear about their personal fears of recovering from treatment, the delicate balance of worrying about metastasis, the state of research (or lack thereof), and their frustrations about not being heard, acknowledged, of not belonging to the club they never wanted to join. I would not have given up a minute of these conversations.
And so it was that, when it was time to pack up, I lost my mind. Now packing up is simple, right? Everything that’s mine in the room is going into the suitcase. There aren’t decisions to be made. It’s all going home. And yet I couldn’t do it. On the other end of the task was making my way to the exhibit room to pack up the METAvivor table, ship the sign to Annapolis, collect all my person things, pack up the sign-up lists, and, and, and….
So at 9 AM on “fall back” morning, pissed over the lost hour of sleep after a too-late night, I called the front desk. They graciously gave me my hour back, extending my checkout until 1 PM. I opened every door in the room, and left.
There was a security camera right outside the door of my room. I couldn’t help but laugh to think that a security guard somewhere in the hotel had spent the weekend watching me go back and forth again and again to collect things I had forgotten or to leave things I decided I didn’t need. I think I pushed the “down” button on the elevator half a dozen times, and then ran back to the room, only to miss my ride to the conference floor. I was my own very own three-ring circus.
I found the coffee station and filled up, got the table supplies packed up and down to the business center to ship off, and returned to my room an hour later, a little calmer. Or more confident. Or less cluttered. Oh hell, I made it back to the room…
All the doors were open – bathroom, closet, drawers. That’s my anti-chemobrain strategy: close the doors as I clear out a space, and hopefully everything finds its way to the suitcase.
Pull back the bedcovers? Check.
Clothes from the closet? Check. I close the door, only to be stopped by my dark brown shoes that I just happened to spy with my little eye. Check.
Scientific poster for the next conference? No where…NO WHERE.
With 10 minutes left before the exhibit center locks up, I dash out the door and all but bump into a housekeeper as I dash for the elevator, then run back just before the door closes to grab a room key, miss my elevator, and wait for another.
It’s nowhere. Moments from panic, I sit for the first time since my feet hit the floor when the alarm went off too early. Think, I tell myself. And as I look down to bury my head in my hands, the green fluorescent tube peeks out from the curtain behind me. My poster! Behind me? Seriously – I thought that was a good idea?
Back up in the room, everything finally in its place, suitcase zipped, backpack loaded, poster secure, I wonder how many other women in other rooms are playing out this same scenario.