The Forgotten

By Kayla Shaw
Spring 2020

Each time I enter the Grandview Cancer Center, I see African American women and African American men, all of them elders, sitting alone and waiting to be called for their appointment. Grandview is where I take my grandmother. Each time we are at the Center, another patient [I shall call her Ms. Russell ]catches my attention as my grandmother walks to the chair a few feet away. She begins to ask my grandmother the typical questions that are asked in this center:

“How old are you?”
“What kind of day did you have?”
and
“How long have you been on chemo?”

My grandmother knows that Ms. Russell has three adult children who live not too far from her, but they do not visit her often. However, she tells my grandmother about a great team of family supporters who are always there for her. I wonder who brought her to the Center today. I overhear her telling my grandmother about transportation from the nursing home where she lives.

As my grandmother and Ms. Russell prepare for the chemo, I think about similarities they share. Both are retired nurses, and both have cancer. I see the way their shoulders hunch and I think about how, like so many Black women, they carried so much on their shoulders. I hear the way they speak in that old country slang and how both of them are finding the strength to beat cancer. I listen with respect as my grandmother and Ms. Russell talk about past struggles of nursing and parenting.