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  • Lori

The Tote

For three and a half years I took Joe to doctors’ offices, labs, chemo infusion centers, rehab centers, and sometimes hospitals. Every time we went someplace medical-related I carried the same tote bag. It contained Joe’s latest lab reports, a monthly calendar of his appointments, business cards from medical professionals, a magazine for me, my iPad for Joe, a deck of cards, and two water bottles: one for each of us. Sometimes it carried snacks. The times we were on our way to the hospital, it carried a change of clothes and toiletries. (Except for the times I forgot and had to call Jeff or Jamie from the hospital to ask them to bring us what we needed).

The other day I finally cleaned it out, seven months after its last use for Joe. (Fortunately there were no leftover snacks).

It was an experience both surreal and sad, and brought with it a stab of pain. I wasn’t quite ready for that—I thought it was just stuff. But that tote bag was with us for all the unpleasant appointments and stressful hospital stays, so it also contained difficult memories. I was bombarded with recollections of all the suffering he went through. And yes, the suffering I went through watching him suffer.

But there were good times, too. Joe and I had some great conversations in the car to and from appointments; or we listened to music we both enjoyed. He received excellent care at UCI. We stopped on occasion to meet and chat with a homeless person or pass out bottles of water on hot days. And Joe made things relatively easy for me: he never complained and was a good sport, regardless of how he was feeling.

Anyway, the tote bag is now empty and hanging in my closet, ready for its next use. Hopefully better times ahead…

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