We Can Change Back

We Can Change Back
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change, Things That Give Me Hope

I had my six-month checkup with the oncologist a couple of weeks ago. I won’t keep you in suspense: My follicular lymphoma is stable, and things look good.

But it was a rough ride getting to the good news. Literally.

I made the appointment for 9 a.m. I’m not sure why, as I always do afternoon appointments. But there I was, driving down the busiest streets in the city during morning rush hour. I was anxious to get to the appointment, and everyone was moving slowly. I’m in a bike-friendly city, which I think, in theory, is a great thing. But today it seemed like every bike rider in town was on the road, taking up space and turning two lanes into one.

I finally got to the cancer hospital and there was a line of cars out front. And it wasn’t moving. Another two-lane road turned into one lane. I was stuck where I was for a few minutes. I finally managed to get past the back-up and made my way to the parking garage.

And there was another stoppage there. I was four cars away from the little machine that gives out the tickets, but there was a car just sitting there, not moving. I was seething as I waited. Finally, someone in another car in the line got out and just took the ticket from the machine and handed it to the person who was holding up the line.

I made my way to the hematology office, filled out paperwork, and took a seat, expecting my usual long wait. A few minutes later, a man sat down across from me. I didn’t look up. I was still too stressed from my driving adventures to be friendly.

The man started to tap his foot, like he was listening to music. I didn’t look up. His tapping got louder. My annoyance grew stronger.

I finally looked at him. He wasn’t wearing earbuds and listening to music. He was clearly in pain. So much pain that he couldn’t keep still. As I was processing this information, a nurse came into the waiting room and helped him stand before leading him into the ward.

Any other day, I would have been angry that they let him in before me.

But it made me stop and take a deep breath.

Cancer changes us. There’s no question about it. Sometimes in good ways, and sometimes bad.

One of the bad ways I’ve changed is that I have become less patient. I get easily annoyed by things that keep me from doing what I want to do. It’s a part of me I try hard to change back.

I let out my deep breath.

That “annoying” foot-tapping man seemed to be in so much pain.

I thought back.

The woman who wouldn’t get out of her car to get her parking garage ticket? Was she a cancer patient, too, in so much pain that stretching out her window wasn’t possible?

The back-up in front of the hospital – was that from cars who were letting out other cancer patients, so slow because of their own pain?

I’ve seen the meme online a hundred times: “You never know what other people are going through. Be kind.”

I don’t like having to go through things that remind me to do that, but I’m also grateful for the reminder. I’m fortunate that my incurable cancer is stable. I can work and play and live relatively pain-free. Not everyone is so lucky.

Cancer changes us. No doubt. But there’s nothing that says we can’t change back.


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