Saturday, December 5, 2020

Radiation Waiting Room

 The radiation waiting room is a strange place where everyone waits in their patient gowns and no one really checks in—yet we’re all known and called back in order.

I entered it the other day, hobbling in with my walker. This wasn’t a regular day though, and the air felt thick. Two elderly women sat bickering about life, despite the fact that they seemed relatively rich, well-to-do (from their hair, nails, and conversation), and as if they’ve lacked nothing their entire lives.

“Why did God DO this to us?” one woman said. “This is THE MOST terrible thing I can imagine.”

“I agree! I might stop going to church. This is ridiculous!”

They both complained so long that it grated against my nerves almost more than my recent back surgery. I heard about how they both have breast cancer (stage I and stage II). Radiation for both is precautionary, and they have good prognoses ahead of them. I thought they were actually quite lucky.... Yet, they complained.

“Don’t ever get old!” the one lady said to me. “It’s the pits.”

But (oddly enough) I was actually there—getting radiation—TO get old.

“Getting old sucks!” she said.

And I wanted to follow with, “No, dying young sucks.” But instead, I looked at the TV and hoped one of them would be called back soon before I said something I’d regret. Instead they weren’t and the older of the two sighed deeply. “I’m sure it’s something simple, but what are you in here for?” she asked me.

I couldn’t take it anymore. She wanted answers. Then, fine?! “Stage 4 melanoma! They’ve given me 2 years to live.”

You should’ve seen their faces—the older one looked like she’d swallowed a frog. The other woman actually lost some of the color in her plump face. And I don’t know why, but this must have worked as some sort of reset because they started apologizing—as I held some sort of devious laughter in. 

“And here we are, talking about how hard OUR lives are....”

“We all die sometime,” I said. “And that’s hard for ALL of us. We just need to start appreciating the time we’re here. Why complain when you could be enjoying life? One is a waste and the other isn’t.”

After a few minutes of silence, the two started talking about how lucky they are not to have stage 4, and how they have upcoming plans for the holidays—gifts for family and friends. They talked about a future far beyond that, one no one is guaranteed, but I hope they’ll have. And as each of them were called back to radiation, they smiled and told me to never lose hope. It felt...odd, how my demise had cheered them up. But honestly, I was grateful something had done the trick!

A new lady sat in the room with me at that point. She seemed sweet despite circumstances. And I thought how amusing...that she hadn’t seen what had transpired in that same room, just moments before.

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