On Monday, when I arrived for my radiation therapy, the machine was broken. They had two physicists working on it but the folks who came after me for later appointments were walking in and there we were. All of us were waiting to have some part of our body irradiated due to cancer.
My thoughts were more on the sitting aspects of the wait. It wasn’t like I had anywhere important to be but after the two hour trip from home that morning, my derriere was talking to me…no, not that way, but screaming in pain. As folks poured in, the grumbling was beginning. I couldn’t stand that so I sort of started a group therapy session. One funny old lady who had a pinwheel stuck on her wheelchair was working on a puzzle she tries to put together each day as she waits, only to have the cleaning lady take it apart each day. Another was a woman who spoke only Chinese, and a young man with a withered leg. Others, as I came to find out had cancer in various areas of their bodies. We all began to share our histories, how long we had been coming for therapy, etc.
I was so pleased with the camaraderie that began to grow. We didn’t fall into the trap of “poor me” or “I’m the sickest one of all.” I hate it when that happens. Does it matter since each of us feels what each of us feels?
The nurses who came out to apologize seemed surprised at the friendly atmosphere. I think they were afraid they would need a whip and a chair but instead, we were all laughing. I suggested we send out for a pizza and wondered if they’d let us eat it there. We didn’t have to but if our blood sugars fell any lower it would have been a consideration.
I forgot for a while about my rear and came to see the pain, the sorrow and the humor in the candid faces surrounding me. I believe each of us began to realize we were in the company of fellow cancer patients who also had many other problems, and that can help us…that identification with others helps us to know we aren’t alone. Pity parties can be lonely events and if you’ve noticed, they are usually attended only by one person.
I was sitting there with folks with melanoma of the bone, lung cancer, another one with breast cancer as well as an unknown sufferer who didn’t speak English. One of the caregivers had fibromyalgia and polymyalgia rheumatic. One had a previous drug problem, two were widowed and so the stories went on. Each one had a pet who gave them unqualified love and we shared, simply shared our lives. The time went by quickly.
You all know me. I never met a stranger and can’t stand that polite stillness that’s in a room with hospital gowned individuals who are pretending to read magazines to keep from looking at the other poor victims. We are human beings who have much in common, regardless of our age, sex or state of health. I have learned writing this blog over the last nine years, when we are in reduced circumstance through a weakened health condition, we need the compassion and sharing that cries out from our suffering. It’s up to us whether or not that cry is answered by others or if we wish to commiserate alone.
There will always be the “I’m sicker than you are” types. There will always be the “I only want to talk about me, not you” folks, and unfortunately there will always be the gloom riddled individuals who have no idea they share their humanity with a whole world full of wonderful other people because they’ll never get beyond their own noses.
One of my favorite writers, besides C.S. Lewis is Glenn Clark so please let me quote a favorite passage written by him. “Whenever we meet another individual who shares the Idea, our hearts rush out to meet him…If my kinsman has trod his path more firmly than I, and followed it more firmly to our common goal, then I hope he will reprimand me with all the severity he knows because I have lagged behind. The lack is not in the Idea to which my days are pledged but to my own faltering footsteps. Looking back, I wish I could reclimb those stretches where I have faltered. When comes the day that we know even as also we are known, I am sure that our greatest embarrassment will lie in our faltering; we will be chagrined that we asked too little, claimed half-heartedly, paced out preemption with too short a stride. We will stand amazed before our niggardly acceptance of God’s great grace and laugh aloud at our lack of credulity.”
You see, my dear friends, we are joined by our one great Idea of hope in face of adversity, belief in the face of pain and knowledge we can survive…with help.
Believing in the future is difficult at times when all of life is dark due to pain and suffering but a future we will certainly have and it can be more than we dare to hope. Don’t let your illness or injury rob you of your life. Fight for it. I have found it so difficult to achieve alignment within my soul, my body and my personal and social life; when all works together it is wonderful but it can be difficult. Physically it can require physical therapy, stretches and exercise. In my personal and social life it requires my not shutting out others and acceptance they also have pain and sorrow at times in their lives and not to undervalue it. In my soul, that is private growth from the sources I choose and prefer the sources of light, hope and valor. Let us all expect more than we currently have, okay?
Look up, not down. Expect more, not less. Achieve all you can for the state you are currently in. No regrets for that wish you cannot control and attempt to control what you can. We’re united by this fight, just as those folks sitting around in the cancer waiting room.