Yesterday in the waiting area I noticed you. You came out of the doctor’s office, the same room that I came in a few minutes after. But in that fleeting moment that I was waiting to be called, I saw you.
Your back lounged, partly seated on the table, the elderly woman probably your mom had her right hand over your shoulder. She kissed your cheek and held you tight. I saw your shoulders heave, possibly a sigh or a sob, I don’t know. All I can see is your back and the gaze that woman beside you gave you while she pressed her hand on your shoulder bringing you into her fold. Oh how that embrace looked so welcoming. She held you tight and I was interrupted from my reverie by the doctor calling my name.
I looked back once more at your direction and then I noticed the man talking to the friendly receptionist and taking the stroller out of your hand. The same stroller that I peered in when we came in, such a lovely baby, so young and so still.
It was a fleeting image- a man, a baby, an elderly woman and a young woman. I was guessing that you’re probably younger than me. A few seconds of looking around and then I realized “I see you” along with the middle aged woman who was seated, all alone, on the other table. I also saw the pair of ladies who were making an appointment with the receptionist. A mother and a daughter. The younger woman asking her mom if she can make it with the schedule given by the receptionist. Which dates fit your schedule? Can you make it?
The realization hits me like cold water splashed on my face. That each one of us share not just a disease but the gamut of grief, joy, pain, hope and despair. I felt no solace in knowing that I am one of many. On the contrary, this is something I would not even wish for my worst enemy.
I so wanted to tap your back and extend my hand to say “I know, it isn’t easy”. I have a 5 and 7 year old and a loving husband that I love to grow old and gray with.
Breast cancer shouldn’t happen to mothers, to daughters, to sisters, aunts and children. It shouldn’t also happen to men. It shouldn’t happen, period. No buts, no exceptions. But it does. The statistics tell us that. It happened to me and to the others who came and went before me.
But I refuse to be a number, the same way that you are not a number and there’s more that this disease is giving us than the well of uncertainty that seems to shrink and expand in proportion to how much we fill it with our dark thoughts.
Breast cancer is giving me the gift of seeing.
I finally notice myself, what I allow and what I resist. I finally notice my strength and my patience- both of which gets tested each day. I finally notice the abundance of goodness around me. Family and friends who are cheering me on and giving me so much of their warmest thoughts that I bask in so much love. I notice my husband, my dear loving husband who adores me more than words can ever show. He is showering me with care so deep that I finally realized the depth of his frustration when in a bout of frenzy I blurted out that he doesn’t care about me so much. There are so many things that I notice, the whispers coming from the kids’ bedroom, the patter of footsteps to check in on me and how I get so much energy from their giggles, their hugs and their kisses. I also notice my voice and my body when my buttons get pushed. More importantly, I notice how I bid my time and savor the pauses in between because clarity and compassion sets in easier when I can breathe.
There are so many things that I notice now that are magnified in a hundred fold that I am so grateful for. There can be pain, despair and heaviness in this journey. The same in any other person’s life with or without cancer. But there can also be goodness. There can also be grace and there can also be gratitude.
The next time we meet, no matter how the circumstances are, I do hope I will have the courage to get up to you and extend my hand and say “I see you.”
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