Kind words are like honey. Sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. Proverbs 16:24
He was sitting at the computer as I walked into the cold, sterile room. I had a full schedule of tests that day. I can’t remember all the different tests but this one was a bone scan. I had just been diagnosed with breast cancer but it was early in my diagnosis. I had no idea how bad it was or what was going to happen next. I had to find out if the cancer had spread to other parts of my body. I was going to find out if I caught it early or if it was too late. I had to find out if my body was strong enough to withstand the damage that chemotherapy would do as it killed parts of me along with the cancer cells. My heart was broken and my head was spinning.
I arrived early in the morning. I sat in a blue waiting room completing the clipboard full of paperwork. I wrote my name, address, and birth date and my heart stopped and I fought back tears as I put a checkmark in the box next to the word ‘cancer’. I always marked ‘no’ down the entire list of illnesses and ailments on those forms. I never spent a night in the hospital outside of delivering my children.Other than colds and the occasional flu, I had never been really sick. Now, I had to own the ‘C’ word. The rest of the morning was a blur. I remembered changing into a gown . I remembered being cold. I remembered the tape pinching the skin around my IV. I remembered drinking white liquid through a straw and trying to keep it down. I remembered feeling completely alone.
My husband had a work commitment. He offered to cancel. He wanted to cancel. I wouldn’t let him. I was thinking ahead to days of treatment and not knowing how many days he would need to take off because of me. I thought I would be fine to get the tests done by myself. I told very few about my diagnosis and didn’t want to put anyone out by asking them to come with me. My doctor needed to schedule my first round of chemotherapy but I needed these tests done before he could do that. I told my nurse to schedule as many as she could in one day. She most certainly did.
I was usually fine doing things on my own but that day was incredibly hard. I was going through an experience that was brand new to me and I was dealing with professionals who dealt with this every day. No one was unfriendly, but everyone acted like this was normal. It wasn’t normal for me. My world was falling apart but everyone I encountered went on like it was just another day. I was ushered from one waiting area to another, directed to drink this or change into that, handed papers to sign here and initial there. I did as I was told. As many directions as I was given that day, I wasn’t sure anyone ever looked me in the eyes….until I walked into that room, the one where I would have my bone scan.
The man sat at the computer, smiling and greeting me as I walked in the door. I think I mumbled to him as I walked into yet another room devoid of color and filled with a big machine. As he finished up what he was doing, I took my position on the cold, flat table. I could feel the tears falling down the side of my face but I didn’t bother to wipe them. With his back to me, he worked at the computer but he started to talk to me. He asked me the usual questions and then told me about his mother and how she battled cancer too. Then, he told me something I would always remember. He told me that cancer wasn’t fair, that what was happening to me was awful, and that no one should have to go through what I was facing. He told me that although I was going to have some hard days, I was going to be okay. I never saw his face as he talked to me but he was the first person that day who acknowledged me as a person going through a difficult time and he was the first person to give me hope.
Through my experience with cancer, both the stage 2 and then my stage 4 diagnosis, I always remembered him. I saw him a couple times at the hospital when I had follow up tests and appointments. Most recently, I saw him at my last petscan. He was just as warm, friendly, and comforting as he was on that day years ago. I told him that I remembered and appreciated all he did; but he didn’t know how much he helped me. He didn’t know that his kindness calmed my soul and brought me peace. He didn’t know that by acknowledging me as a person, and not just a patient, he helped me cope with all the emotions I had bubbling over that day. He didn’t know that by simply saying that I was going to be okay; for the first time, I believed it.
I had a petscan scheduled soon. I was going to find out if my cancer was still in a holding pattern or if it was progressing. I was going to see what my future was going to hold. I was starting to worry about whether this scan was going to be ‘that scan’ that all cancer patients dread. I was starting to worry that my time could be drawing closer. I was starting to worry that I was going to have to change my treatment plan and with that, deal with a new set of awful side effects ….
and then I remembered that quiet voice telling me that having cancer was unfair, that going through this was awful, that I was going to have bad days … but most importantly, I remembered that I was going to be okay.
May this be a reminder to treat people with kindness, to use your words to help and to comfort others. May your words flow from your mouth straight to someone’s heart.
May your words bring peace.
Let your gentleness be evident to all. Philippians 4:5