A substantial slice of our lives is made up of waiting. We wait for traffic lights, for the kids to get out of school, in grocery store lines, for the coffee to hurry up and brew, for things to be over and for things to start. I spend a lot of time waiting in Doctor’s offices.
For most everyday waiting, there is a suitable distraction: Classic rock for traffic lights, books to read while the kids take their time getting to the car, the headlines of The National Enquirer at the grocery store, Facebook while waiting for the drip drip of the coffee. Usually some ancient magazines at most doctors offices.
The kind of waiting a cancer patient does is different.
Once a week, my 7 year-old son goes to therapy. My second bout with cancer has been hard on him. Before Dr. Rice sees Mac, he checks in with me. He wants to know how Mac is doing; is he still scared to go to the bathroom alone? How are things going with his schoolwork? And always, how is my health? Last week I told him that I would find out the following day the results of my most recent CT scan.
“How long have you had cancer?”
“Since June, 2010. Two and a half years,” I replied.
“You’ve had to do a lot of waiting in that time.”
Wow. I’d never thought of it like that. I have waited for insurance approvals. Waited for appointments to hear results. Waited for surgeries. Waited for scans. Waited for chemo to start. Waited for chemo to end. Waited for blood test results. Waited for bad news. Waited for good news. Waited for life or death.
This kind of internal waiting cannot be distracted by magazines or even the finest book by my favorite author. Not even half a bottle of vodka can relinquish it to the back of my brain. And therein is the problem. I can be happily doing something I enjoy: cooking, reading to the kids, listening to records, even kissing Adrienne, but a large portion of my brain is taken up waiting. I feel distracted, removed from the excellent world around me.
I realize many times a day how blessed I have been. No one expected me to be around to see another round of holidays. Another Thanksgiving to be grateful for. Christmas presents ordered already arriving. Lights to be strung up on Thursday afternoon. Goofy ornaments that haven’t been seen for a year. I’m grateful for every minute I have with my kids and my wife. But the infernal waiting has got to stop. I’m not sure how to do it.
And so I wait. It’s 4:30 in the morning. In 4 hours, Adrienne and I will drive to Napa. We’ll wait at traffic lights. We’ll get to Napa Valley Imaging. We’ll wait. I’ll be called back. I’ll put on scrub pants. I’ll have radioactive glucose put in my body. I’ll wait for an hour while it courses through my body. The technician will put me through the tube. Adrienne will be waiting for me when I’m finished, (no food or coffee before the scan, I know she’ll have a peppermint mocha waiting for me, (a good thing to wait for!) )
Then the serious waiting begins. On Monday at 1:30, we’ll meet with the surgeon. He’ll review the scan and let us know if surgery is an option.
I don’t want to spend Thanksgiving with only part of my brain present. I long to be in the moment and to stop waiting.