formerly Diane's Addled Ramblings... the ramblings are still addled, just like before, and the URL is still the same...
it's just the title at the top of the page that's new

Thursday, January 21, 2016

We're All In the Same Boat...

Cancer is a great leveler, I've discovered.

I mean, I knew it, I guess. We all know it, don't we? We know that cancer doesn't discriminate. It attacks young and old, black and white, Republican and Democrat, rich and poor, Christian and Atheist.

Cancer doesn't give a shit.

But you know who does give a shit?

The people cancer affects... the people whose cells it infects... the people it hits like a ton of bricks, knocking them off their feet, winded and stunned, daring them to get up and fight.

And the people who love those people.

And the people who help all of those people get through it.

Yesterday I was at the cancer center, waiting for them to call me for my appointment. A tall, elegantly dressed woman walked in. She was wearing an expensive cashmere coat and beautiful powder blue leather gloves, and she carried a bag that I'm pretty sure cost more than my first car. She was, as my friend Mel would say, a fancy lady. And I could tell right away she was a newbie. She had that shell-shocked look of one who doesn't quite believe she has to be there and who doesn't yet know the protocol.

I wore that look for quite a while.

And she was all alone. I know many people have trouble with that, with even the idea of someone being alone in the cancer center, but I also know that I went to (and wanted to go to... and still go to) most of my appointments by myself.

Some things are hard to share, man.

After she checked in and got her bracelet, she sat down across from me in the waiting area. I smiled at her and she nodded. Her expression made me swallow hard and blink back tears. It was so... pained.

I remembered my first few visits to the cancer center. I couldn't even make eye contact with anyone. I couldn't speak. I fought back tears from the moment I walked through the door until the moment I left.

I hated it.

I still hate it.

But it's gotten easier.

You can get used to just about anything, can't you?

Anyway, she sat there, still, waiting, looking straight ahead, tears welling.

My heart hurt for her. Part of me wanted to offer up some words or a gesture of encouragement, but I didn't. I didn't move. I didn't say or do anything. I'm not sure why. Maybe because I would have been uncomfortable had a stranger talked to me during my first few visits... I would have burst into tears and I would have hated that.

That's what I told myself anyway.

Then, the woman sitting to my left got up. She was about the same age as the new lady - older than me by about a decade, I'd say. She was bald under her knitted cap (not a strange sight in that environment, certainly) and she stooped when she shuffled across the floor. She was wearing an old sweatshirt, tattered at the cuffs, stained sweatpants, and ratty sneakers, and when she smiled at me, I could see gaps where teeth had once been.

She was not a fancy lady.

But she sat right down next to the lady with the cashmere coat and the expensive bag, she took her beautifully manicured right hand into both of her own gnarled, work-worn ones, and she said softly (but with great surety), "It's OK, honey. You ain't alone here."

And the fancy lady looked at her for a long moment, and then, as tears streamed down her face, she hugged that not-fancy lady hard.

And I had to clear my throat and look away.

Those ladies taught me a couple of lessons yesterday.

I learned that sometimes it's not enough to give a shit. 

I learned that sometimes you have to show it. 

And I learned that cancer really and truly is a great leveler.

4 comments:

Chris Nik said...

True, heartfelt, compassionate. Sometimes we all need each other and that's ok.

Sherri Murphy said...

Beauty full. <3

the muttering farmer/programmer said...

The universe cares not one wit about the trappings we choose to hang over, and in front of, the reality of our existence. It is nothing but an illusion. The universe can quickly strip us bare and leave us cold and shivering in front of all those we had hoped to impress with our fancy shrouds and drapes. We had best be comfortable in our loin cloth before we start dressing up or we could very well be shivering, naked, AND embarrassed when the universe strips us of those adornments…………Ok, that sounds a bit pretentious, but I suppose a tall glass of Jack and Coke can do that. But I’m not going to change it. Liquid bravery I suppose. (Rest assured, one day, the universe will strip me of my pretentious proclivities and I will......be embarrassed.

Julie McClay said...

The risk of reaching out. What a gift that lady offered. And the ability to receive without judgment. Again, a gift. Thank you for sharing these beautiful words.