Chair Number Nine

Steve McKinionUncategorized0 Comments

On Harrison’s very first visit to the pediatric oncology clinic at UNC he chose to sit in chair number nine. I don’t recall why he picked that particular seat. Perhaps it was the only one available. Maybe it had a good view of the nurses station (he just ADORES the nurses). Harrison speculated last week that it was because he was diagnosed on December 9.

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Whatever the reason, the fact remains that Harrison only wants to sit in the chair in row nine for his chemo infusion.

When we were talking about this strange ritual last week I began to think about how something so small plays such a big role in Harrison’s life. Some many things are out of his control:

Getting cancer

Treatment options

Whether he gets sick from the medicines or not

Nearly every part of this journey has been forced on him by the circumstances of his illness.

But choosing a chair? Now that’s something he can do.

I’m sure no one ever thought about the “self-determination factor” when not requiring “assigned seating” in the oncology clinic, and I hope no one ever does. Kids already lose so much to this disease, being able to chose a seat is one act of freedom and self-determination. Such freedom has to, just has to, contribute to the kids’ emotional well-being.

There have been only a few times when Harrison has been forced to sit in another chair, and, fortunately, most of those times have been when he’s gone in unexpectedly for a blood or platelet transfusion, and felt too bad to care. But there has been that occasional visit when someone got to the seat before him.

Not a happy camper.

He’s never fought another kid over the chair, and I’m sure he never will — of course, could you imagine that scene, two cancer kids fighting :-). But he loves that chair. It’s a place of comfort in the midst of chaos. A shelter in the middle of the storm.

This past week another kid was in his chair. A kid he who was once on his baseball team. I asked if he wanted to kick the other child out of the chair. He laughed and said, “No, he can have it this time. It’s a special chair and he may need it.”

I will never know why Harrison picked chair number nine, but I’ll always be grateful for it.  In baseball he picks #7 for Mickey Mantle (and Steve Yeager for any Dodger fans out there). But in cancer, it’s chair number nine.

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