We Can Change Back

We Can Change Back

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.


Note: Lymphoma News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lymphoma News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to lymphoma.

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  1. RObert Gartner says:

    Yep! In some ways I have more patience and in others much less. I like your story very much Bob. Cancer, the same, has also helped me appreciate being alive the more and expanded my kindnesses toward others. Last night I was in Kroger and passed a man in one of those motorized shop carts. He smiled and said hello and I said hello too. I dont want to sound racial here but black folks are far more disposed to greeting a stranger, as are the Spanish/Latino people. Later I was out in the parking lot and I saw him sitting next to his open car door in the cart. I went over and asked if I could be of help. He said he was looking for inspiration! Then he asked me if I have ever seen the movie Demolition Man. I said does it have Densel Washington? He said it has Wesley Snipes and Sylvester Stallone. He then said that whenever Simon Phoenix said to do something in the movie you had better do it because if you didnt you would be killed. So then he asked me to tell him as Simon Phoenix to do it. So I did and he jumped up and put his butt in the car that fast! Ha Ha! His legs were next, one at a time. What a lovely experience. What a lovely man! What a wonderful memory!

    • Hi Robert. That does sound like a nice memory to have. It’s funny how we get our inspiration from the strangest places sometimes.
      Keep being kind. The world needs more of it.

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