Friday, 12 August 2011

The Big C, Part II: The Waiting Game

Yesterday, I went back to the Cross for a follow up appointment. Needless to say, I was rather irritated by this. I have never been a very patient person. While it's true that I am a much more patient person than I was in the past, due to aging and circumstance, I am still impatient. I hate to be kept waiting. I always want to know everything right away. I have found that over the past 2 years I have done a significant amount of waiting. I guess that's what happens when you get cancer.

I know for myself, when I heard those three little words, "you have cancer", the first thing that I wanted to do was go out and do everything that I might not have gotten the chance to (if I hadn't been as lucky as I was). The last thing I wanted to do was wait. But that's what cancer does. It makes you wait, and wait and wait. It's kind of funny how the only thing you and your doctors can think of is how fast you can get on treatment, or in for surgery, only to spend significant amounts of time waiting. You wait at hospitals and doctors offices. You wait for surgery dates and times. You wait to start treatment and then you wait to see if the treatment is working. You wait for followup appointments with specialists, who, because they are specialists and basically think they are God's gifts to medicine, think they can make you wait even longer. It's maddening when you are sitting in a waiting room, in a disgusting hospital gown, freezing, and bored for an hour and half past your scheduled appointment. I personally think it's quite inconsiderate. But then I sometimes stop and think to myself. What if they are late because someone was in serious trouble, or something went wrong. I know if that was the case, and if the roles were reversed and I needed immediate medical attention, I would be grateful that there were people who were willing to take the time to help me. From this, I have learned to play the waiting game. I know that any appointment that I have at the Cross is going to be minimum an hour long, and I prepare for it. I know that when I go see my surgeon, the wait is at least an hour and half, and the wait for my GP is usually around 45 minute. You learn patience right quick when you are kept waiting.

What's funny about it all, is that while you are waiting all you want to do is get on with your life. It's like you are stuck in some sick, twisted, swirling vortex where time stands still. You see your friends and family moving through life at warp speed while all you can do is sit. And wait. Sit and wait to heal, sit and wait for results, sit and wait on life. You can't help but think that there are so many other places that you would rather be, so many other things you would rather be doing, with people other than doctors and nurses. But, this is where it gets silly. In order to move past cancer, or any kind of life altering event, you have to wait. You have to wait for time to take it's course and to make things better. If all we ever got was a quick fix, there would be a lot of broken people in this world. At the end of the day, what I have realized is that waiting makes us stronger people. There is a reason why we don't always get the answers right away. Answers change based on variables. If my oncologist prescribed a treatment for me right off the bat, without knowing all the variables, I could be sitting here right now, typing this from a hospital bed, with no hair, and probably wanting to puke from a toxic cocktail. Instead, he waited until he had all the results, and now all I have to do is pop a little pill every day for the next 5 years.

So, I am yet again going to offer some advice. Wait. Be patient. Know that things have to happen a certain way. Know that your path has already been laid out, and be okay with following it, without getting sidetracked. Trust in your internal compass. Listen to what people have to say, even if you don't like what you are hearing. If you find that you can't wait or that it's too hard to sit and be quiet in a doctors office here are some things that you can do to help pass the time:

1) Make a playlist on your ipod: This really helped me. I called my playlist Slice and Dice, and it's full of angsty, screamy music that makes me feel better for some strange reason. Sound Effects and Overdramatics by The Used is one of my favorites.

2) Bring a really good book: Lose yourself in a story that has nothing to do with your current situation. The funnier the book, the better. It will make you laugh out loud in waiting rooms, which will help to ease your mood and make you less irritated. I suggest anything by Christopher Moore. Try A Dirty Job or Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal.

3) Take a good look around the waiting room and make up stories about the people who are sharing it with you. Make the stories super dramatic, like something from a really cheesy soap opera. This is fun when you have someone with you who can help feed you ideas and scenarios.

4) Trashy magazines are you best friend. It's very comforting to see other people's drama, other than your own. Us Weekly and Star are both excellent. I quite personally get excited when I see any of the cast members of Teen Mom on the covers!

5) Two words: Travel Scrabble. I wish I had thought of this sooner, as it would have saved me a lot of frustrated hours of waiting, although, I doubt anyone would have played with me seeing as how I have a rather large vocabulary.

6) Make 'friends' with other patients, or bring a friend with you: I was once talking to another survivor, and he told me and some friends a story about how he was just feeling super lousy one day during his treatment. Like, head in a bucket puking, while sitting in a wheelchair lousy. He said that he then overheard a conversation his mother was having with a man who's life seemed much worse than his own, and it made him feel better. I know that sounds harsh, but keep this in mind. There is always someone out there who is having a worse day than you. You might just be the person that they talk to in a waiting room, that will brighten their day and make things seem a little less bleak. If you choose to bring a friend with you, make sure that they a) know what they are getting themselves into (going to the doctor is hard enough, let alone going to see an appointment dealing with cancer), and b) make sure that they can make you laugh. Laughter always works.

7) Plan the perfect murder/crime: Kind of creepy I know, but oddly comforting. One of my parents is in the law enforcement business and it's always fun to sit and talk about what could plausibly happen, and how to commit the perfect crime.

So, take these tips and run with it. As for me, I am going to continue to practice patience, and hopefully, it will make me a better person.


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