Spoiler Alert: You’re The Person You’ve Been Waiting For.

Mary Swan-Bell
6 min readAug 12, 2021

Last week I had my last immunotherapy treatment. At my first treatment, I was scared and alone. My husband was out of town and even though one of my friends had come with me, I told her she didn’t have to come back with me. I’m brave. And strong. People say that all the time. My nurse was kind and explained everything that was going to happen. After the iv went in and she started the drip, she said, “I’m going to sit with you for a few minutes because if you’re going to have a reaction, it will probably happen in the first 15 minutes.” Okay. Let’s hold our breath together.

She asked me if I knew what the drug was called that I was getting, and I said, “Please remind me.” I couldn’t remember how to pronounce it. It was one of those mental blocks. Like how I have to say Wed-Nes-Day in my head in order to spell it correctly. Or how I can never remember which Kristen is KristEn and which one is KristIn. “It’s called Nivolumab,” she said, “We call it Nivo for short.” Nivo. It sounded harmless. Cute, even. Like Nemo. I googled it. Screenshot it. Put it in my notes. I still couldn’t remember it. When I went to other doctors, because going to doctors is my hobby now, they’d ask, “Are you taking any new medications?” Yeah, I get this shit pumped into my vein every month, but I can never remember exactly how to spell or pronounce it, hold on.

In my melanoma support group they call it Opdivo, which is the brand name. You may have seen commercials for it, helping people live their best lives with metastatic melanoma or non-small cell lung cancer. The tagline on one commercial was literally: A chance to live longer. Golly, that seems like a no-brainer. Opdivo posed another issue as I could never remember if there was a T after the p. Like Arctic or Artic/SherbeRt or Sherbet/Anti-Climatic or Anti-Climactic — I know which one is right, but my brain second guesses it so I sound as if I have a tic when I say them. As it does, my crazy brain wanted it to be OpTdivo and kept making it so. Ultimately I start sweating when someone asks about it. Inevitably the person taking the info asks me what it is, perhaps because the craziest medicine I took pre-2020 was a probiotic before probiotics were mainstream. It’s for cancer. Really? What kind? They ask, looking at my hair. It doesn’t make your hair fall out.

Mary Swan-Bell

dreamer•mystic•seeker• author, Post-Its and Polaroids•